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Full text of "Memoir of Eli Whitney, Esq."

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1570 
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MEMOIR 



ELI WHITNEY, ESQ. 



DENISON^OLMSTED, 

PROFESSOR OF NATURAL PHILOSOPHY AND ASTRONOMY, YALE COLLEGE. 



First published in the American Journal of Science, for 1832. 



NEW HAVEN: 

DURRIE & PECK 

PECK & STAFFORD, PRINTERS. 



P 

I 



MEMOIR 



ELI WHITIEY, ESQ 



DENISON OLMSTED, 

PROFESSOR OF NATURAL PHILOSOPHY AND ASTRONOMY, YALE COLLEGE. 



First published in the American Journal of Science, for 1832. 



NEW HAVEN: 

DURRIE & PECK 

PECK & STAFFORD, PRINTERS. 
1846. 



CONTENTS. 



Introduction, 5 

Birth and Ancestry, ,..,-,.. { - .,, ,, . 5 

Childhood, ,/ .. . '".'v'jA^^i.iX.- 1 .:.,,,;'' 6 

Early indications of Mechanical Genius, .i^^Atfl^^^f..' V* ;! - ^i* v ''-*\^$ 

Enterprising spirit in boyhood, , i * . . -.,>.. 8 

Preparation for College, . . . f*>}<*i*vT ''!-!-, ,r* ? *. ' ^ 

College life, ; * . . 10 

First visit to Georgia as a Teacher, 12 

Disappointments, . . ,' ' . . . . 12 

Residence in the family of General Greene, 12 

Incident that led to the Invention of the Cotton Gin, 13 

First steps toward the Invention, 14 

Liberal encouragement of Mrs. Greene, . * ; . . ; . .Jj ''* ' vV-.M- * ';/; ^ 

Connection with Phineas Miller, Esq. 15 

Excitement on the first knowledge of the Invention, 16 

Copartnership of Miller & Whitney, 16 

Steps to obtain a Patent, . . *'*Vij-: . . .,.,,' J7 

Encouragement of Mr. Jefferson, ...... f' , * . 17 

Plan of operations, 18 

Great scarcity of Money, ...... .,,,.<. <*-.: *". .18 

Sickness of Mr. Whitney, . . . , . \ . . . . 19 

General resort to Cotton Planting, . . ' < .. _ . ^- <' .20 

Competition for the Invention, . ' * . 20 

Loss of Manufactory by fire, ... 21 

Great fortitude of the Partners, 21 

Pecuniary embarrassments, . . . . . ^ . f ' ,''' * ; , .22 

Sad news from the English manufacturers, . ./.v^./,,./ .... 22 

Prejudices excited against the machine, 23 

Opposition and increasing embarrassments, 23 

Alliance with Mr. J. C. Nightingale, . 24 

Disastrous state of the concern, 25 

Personal struggles and self-denial of Mr. Whitney, .... ^. ', . 25 

Brighter prospects, . . . . * '-'* ' ' . . . . ,. 26 

Unfortunate issue of the first Patent suit, ,, .... ,. . . * f . 26 

Account of the Trial, . . , . . V , .' .. '. . 26 

Desperate state of the concern, . . . . s " . . 27 

Negotiations with South Carolina for sale of Patent, 28 

Purchase by the State, 30 

Negotiations with North Carolina, 31 



Negotiations with Tennessee, . . ..-- . -<*: .31 

Attempts to annul these contracts, .. . f k 31 

Violent opposition in Georgia, 32 

Honorable measures of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee, . 33 

First favorable decision on the Patent, . 41 

Celebrated Charge of Judge Johnson, 44 

Successful suits in Georgia, 46 

Report of Trials, . 46 

Great exertions and sufferings of the Patentee, 46 

New enterprise of Mr. Whitney, 47 

Contract with the United States for the manufacture of Arms, . . .47 

Difficulties of the undertaking, 48 

Advantageous site of the Manufactory, . -' , J ' ? ;'* "" '^ ". ' -^ . . 49 

Slow progress of the works, 49 

Great diligence of the Proprietor, 49 

Low state of the Mechanic Arts, and great improvements by Mr. Whitney, 50 

Commendations of Governor Tompkins and Governor Wolcott, '" ' . 50 

111 success of other contracts, ^yi - m 53 

Mechanical skill exhibited by Mr. Whitney, 52 

Account of his system, 53 

Public advantages of it, .' r '.*" *\ <' . v ' .' ' . 54 

Petition for a renewal of the Patent, . <^*'^r '&$ t-ijfc ... 55 

Requited by Congress, . . . . sT ; -* 57 

Letter to Robert Fulton, 's ^,r&^" ^' J ' I 8 ' ,v ' . . . .' ' : . . 58 

Marriage of Mr. Whitney, . . . . ' . ' ; ." V ... 59 

Prospects of happiness, 59 

First attack of illness, '.''.."' -59 

Progress and fatal termination, 60 

Respect of his fellow citizens, . . . .'. . . .60 

Eulogy of President Day, . r j i 4 .... 60 

Character, '' V" * 'V ' , . 61 

Importance of his labors to society, . . . ;' v ^ V "\ . 63 

Early statistics of the Cotton trade, 63 

Contrast with its present state, 64 

Reflections, . 64 

REMINISCENCES OF PROFESSOR SILLIMAN, 66 

APPENDIX, .- . '-> -'. .* -*. . . . . .77 






MEMOIR. 



THE memory of the late Mr. Whitney is so fondly cherished 
by his fellow citizens, out of respect to his distinguished tal- 
ents, his private virtues, and his public spirit, and his name 
holds so honorable a place among the benefactors of our coun- 
try, that the wish has often been intimated to us of seeing a 
more extended biography of him, than has hitherto been given 
to the public. 

We now enter with pleasure upon such a task ; and to en- 
able us to do the better justice to the subject, we have been 
favored with access to his extensive correspondence, and to all 
his other writings, and have conferred freely with various per- 
sons, who were long and intimately acquainted with him. 

ELI WHITNEY was born at Westborough, Worcester County, 
Massachusetts, December 8, 1765. His parents belonged to 
the middle class in society, who, by the labors of husbandry, 
managed, by uniform industry and strict frugality, to provide 
well for a rising family. From the same class have arisen 
most of those who, in New England, have attained to high 
eminence and usefulness ; nor is any other situation in society 
so favorable to the early formation of those habits of econ- 
omy, both of time and money, which, when carried forward 
into the study of the scholar, or the field of active enterprise, 
afford the surest pledge of success. 

The paternal ancestors of Mr. Whitney emigrated from 
England among the early settlers of Massachusetts, and their 
descendants were among the most respectable farmers of 
Worcester County. His maternal ancestors, of the name of 
FAY, were also English emigrants, and ranked among the sub- 
stantial yeomanry of Massachusetts. A family tradition re- 
specting the occasion of their coming to this country, may 
serve to illustrate the history of the times. The story is, that, 



6 

% J ' 

about two hundred years ago, the father of the family, who 
resided in England, a man of large property and great re- 
spectability, called together his five sons and addressed them 
thus : " America is to be a great country ; I am too old to em- 
igrate to it myself; but if any one of you will go, I will give 
him a double share of my property." The youngest son in- 
stantly declared his willingness to go, and his brothers gave 
their consent. He soon set off for the New World, and land- 
ed at Boston, in the neighborhood of which place he purchased 
a large tract of land, where he enjoyed the satisfaction of re- 
ceiving two visits from his venerable father. His son, John 
Fay, from whom the subject of this memoir is immediately 
descended, removed from Boston to Westborough, where he 
became the proprietor of a large tract of land, since known 
by the name of the Fay-Farm. 

From Mrs. B., the sister of Mr. Whitney, we have derived 
some particulars respecting his childhood and youth, and we 
shall present the anecdotes to our readers in the artless style 
in which they are related by our correspondent, believing that 
they would be more acceptable in this simple dress, than if, 
according to the modest suggestion of the writer, they should 
be invested with a more labored diction. The following in- 
cident, though trivial in itself, will serve to show at h.ow early 
a period certain qualities of strong feeling, tempered by pru- 
dence, for which Mr. Whitney afterwards became distin- 
guished, began to display themselves. When he was six or 
seven years old, he had overheard the kitchen-maid, in a fit of 
passion, calling his mother, who was in a delicate state of health, 
hard names, at which he expressed great displeasure to his 
sister. " She thought (said he) that I was not big enough to 
know any thing ; but I can tell her, I am too big to hear her 
talk so about by mother. I think she ought to have a flog- 
ging, and if I knew how to bring it about, she should have 
one." His sister advised him to tell their father. "No, (he 
replied,) that will not do ; it will hurt his feelings and mother's 
too: and besides, it is likely the girl wilt say she never said 
so, and that would make a quarrel. It is best to say nothing 
about it." 



Indications of his mechanical genius were likewise devel- 
oped at a very early age. Of his early passion for such em- 
ployments, his sister gives the following account. " Our fa- 
ther had a workshop, and sometimes made wheels, of differ- 
ent kinds, and chairs. He had a variety of tools, and a lathe 
for turning chair-posts. This gave my brother an opportu- 
nity of learning the use of tools when very young. He lost 
no time ; but as soon as he could handle tools he was always 
making something in the shop, and seemed not to like work- 
ing on the farm. On a time, after the death of our mother, 
when our father had been absent from home two or three days, 
on his return, he inquired of the housekeeper, what the boys 
had been doing ? She told him what B. and J. had been about. 
But what has Eli been doing ? said he. She replied, he has 
been making a fiddle. * Ah ! (added he despondingly,) I fear 
Eli will have to take his portion in fiddles/ He was at this 
time about twelve years old. His sister adds, that this fiddle 
was finished throughout, like a common violin, and made tol- 
erably good music. It was examined by many persons, and 
all pronounced it to be a remarkable piece of work for such a 
boy to perform. From this time he was employed to repair 
violins, and had many nice jobs, which were always executed 
to the entire satisfaction, and often to the astonishment, of his 
customers. His father's watch being the greatest piece of me- 
chanism that had yet presented itself to his observation, he was 
extremely desirous of examining its interior construction, but 
was not permitted to do so. One Sunday morning, observing 
that his father was going to meeting, and would leave at home 
the wonderful little machine, he immediately feigned illness as 
an apology for not going to church. As soon as the family 
were out of sight, he flew to the room where the watch hung, 
and taking it down, he was so delighted with its motions, that 
he took it all in pieces before he thought of the consequences 
of his rash deed ; for his father was a stern parent, and pun- 
ishment would have been the reward of his idle curiosity, had 
the mischief been detected. He, however, put the work all 
so neatly together, that his father never discovered his auda- 
city until he himself told him, many years afterwards." 



Whitney lost his mother at an early age, and when he was 
thirteen years old, his father married a second time. His step- 
mother, among her articles of furniture, had a handsome set 
of table knives, she valued very highly, which our young 
mechanic observing, said to her, * I could make as good ones, 
if I had tools, and I could make the necessary tools, if I had a few 
common tools to make them with/ His step-mother thought he 
was deriding her, and was much displeased ; but it so happened 
not long afterwards, that one of the knives got broken, and he 
made one exactly like it in every respect, except the stamp on 
the blade. This he would likewise have executed, had not the 
tools required been too expensive for his slender resources. 

When Whitney was fifteen or sixteen years of age, he sug- 
gested to his father an enterprise, which was an earnest of the 
similar undertakings in which he engaged on a far greater 
scale in later life. This being the time of the Revolutionary 
war, nails were in great demand, and bore a high price. At 
that period, nails were made chiefly by hand, with little aid 
from machinery. Young Whitney proposed to his father to 
procure him a few tools, and to permit him to set up the man- 
ufacture. His father consented, and he went steadily to work, 
and suffered nothing to divert him from his task, until his day's 
work was completed. By extraordinary diligence, he gained 
time to make tools for his own use, and to put in knife blades, 
and to perform many other curious little jobs, which exceeded 
the skill of the country artisans. At this laborious occupa- 
tion, the enterprising boy wrought alone, with great success, 
and with much profit to his father, for two winters, pursuing 
the ordinary labors of the farm during the summers. At this 
time he devised a plan for enlarging his business and increas- 
ing his profits. He whispered his scheme to his sister, with 
strong injunctions of secrecy : and requesting leave of his fa- 
ther to go to a neighboring town, without specifying his object, 
he set out on horseback in quest of a fellow laborer. Not find- 
ing one so easily as he had anticipated, he proceeded from 
town to town, with a perseverance which was always a strong 
trait of his character, until at the distance of forty miles from 
home, he found such a workman as he desired. He also made 



his journey subservient to his improvement in mechanical 
skill, for he called at every workshop on his way, and gleaned 
all the information he could respecting the mechanic arts. 

At the close of the war, the business of making nails was 
no longer profitable ; but a fashion prevailing among the la- 
dies of fastening on their bonnets with long pins, he contrived 
to make those with such skill and dexterity, that he nearly mo- 
nopolized the business, although he devoted to it only such 
seasons of leisure as he could redeem from the occupations of 
the farm, to which he now principally betook himself. He 
added to this article, the manufacture of walking canes, which 
he made with peculiar neatness. 

In respect to his proficiency in learning, while young, we 
are informed that he early manifested a fondness for figures, 
and an uncommon aptitude for arithmetical calculations, though 
in the other rudiments of education, he was not particularly 
distinguished. Yet, at the age of fourteen, he had acquired so 
much general information, as to be regarded, on this account, 
as well as on account of his mechanical skill, a very remark- 
able boy. 

From the age of nineteen, young Whitney conceived the 
idea of obtaining a liberal education ; but being warmly op- 
posed by his step-mother, he was unable to procure the decided 
consent of his father, until he had reached the age of twenty 
three years. But, partly by the avails of his manual labor, 
and partly by teaching a village school, he had been so far 
able to surmount the obstacles thrown in his way, that he had 
prepared himself for the Freshman class in Yale College, 
which he entered in May, 1789. An intelligent friend and 
neighbor of the family helped to dissuade his father from send- 
ing him to college, observing, that " it was a pity such a fine 
mechanical genius as his should be wasted ;" but he was unable 
to comprehend how a liberal education, by enlarging his intel- 
lectual powers and expanding his genius, would so much exalt 
those powers and perfect that genius, as to place their pos- 
sessor among the Arkwrights of the age, while without such 
means of cultivation, he might have been only an ingenious 
millwright or blacksmith. While a schoolmaster, the me- 



10 

chanic would often usurp the place of the teacher ; and the 
mind, too aspiring for such a sphere, was wandering off in 
pursuit of perpetual motion. While at home in the month of 
July, 1788, making arrangements to go to New Haven, for the 
purpose of entering college, he was seized with a violent fe- 
ver attended by a severe cough, which threatened to termi- 
nate his life. At length the disease centered in one of his 
limbs. A painful swelling, extending to the bone, ensued, 
which was finally relieved by surgical operation. After his 
recovery, he went to Durham, in Connecticut, and finished his 
preparation for college, under the care of that eminent scholar, 
Rev. Dr. Goodrich. As we are soon to accompany Mr. Whit- 
ney beyond the sphere of his domestic relations, we may men- 
tion here, that he finished his collegiate education with little 
expense to his father. His last college bills were indeed paid 
by him, but the money was considered as a loan, and for it 
the son gave his note, which he afterwards duly canceled. 
After the decease of his father, he took an active part in the 
settlement of the estate, but generously relinquished all his 
patrimony for the benefit of the other members of the family. 
We have already mentioned that Mr. Whitney entered Yale 
College at the mature age of twenty three years. He had en- 
joyed but little intercourse with men of learning, and the state 
of elementary education, in the part of the country where he 
passed his minority, was unfavorable to his acquiring a know- 
ledge of polite literature ; and while a member of college, he 
seems to have devoted more attention to the mathematics, 
and especially to mechanics, theoretical as well as practical, 
than to the ancient classics. Among his files are found most or 
all of the compositions and disputations which he wrote during 
this period, commencing with 1789. The compositions are 
frequently characterized by great vividness of imagination, 
and the disputations by sound and correct reasoning. At this 
time of life, indeed, Mr. Whitney exhibited an imagination 
somewhat poetical ; his prose compositions had something of 
this vein, and he occasionally wrote verses. The written dis- 
putations found among his papers, are more than twenty in 
number. Some of them were read before the President, (the 



11 

late Dr. Stiles,) and others were exhibited in the literary society 
to which he belonged. Their titles indicate the topics that 
were agitated by the students of that day. The subjects dis- 
cussed were oftener political than literary. The writers par- 
took largely of the enthusiasm which pervaded all ranks of 
our countrymen. They exulted in their release from a foreign 
yoke, and boasted of the victory they had achieved over Brit- 
ish arms. They extolled the matchless wisdom of the new 
government, and contrasted its free spirit with the tyranny of 
most of the governments of the old world, and its youthful 
vigor with those mouldering fabrics. With a spirit somewhat 
prophetical, they anticipated the decline and overthrow of all 
arbitrary governments, and the substitution in their place, of 
a purely representative system, like our own, and thus main- 
tained, (what is now even more probable than it was then,) that 
this government was set up to be a model to all the nations of 
the earth. 

The propensity of Mr. Whitney to mechanical inventions 
and occupations, was frequently apparent during his residence 
at college. On a particular occasion, one of the tutors hap- 
pening to mention some interesting philosophical experiment, 
regretted that he could not exhibit it to his pupils, because the 
apparatus was out of order, and must be sent abroad to be 
repaired. Mr. Whitney proposed to undertake this task, and 
performed it greatly to the satisfaction of the Faculty of the 
college. 

A carpenter being at work upon one of the buildings of the 
gentleman with whom Mr. Whitney boarded, the latter begged 
permission to use his tools during the intervals of study; but the 
mechanic being a man of careful habits, was unwilling to trust 
them with a student, and it was only after the gentleman of 
the house had become responsible for all damages, that he 
would grant the permission. But Mr. Whitney had no sooner 
commenced his operations, than the carpenter was surprised 
at his dexterity, and exclaimed, "there was one good me- 
chanic spoiled when you went to college." 

Soon after Mr. Whitney took his degree, in the autumn of 
1792, he entered into an engagement with a Mr. B., of Geor- 



If. 

gia, to reside in his family as a private teacher. On his way 
thither, he was so fortunate as to have the company of Mrs. 
Greene, the widow of General Greene, who, with her family, 
was returning to Savannah, after spending the summer at the 
north. At that time it was deemed unsafe to travel through 
our country without having had the small-pox, and accordingly 
Mr. W. prepared himself for the excursion, by procuring in- 
oculation while in New York. As soon as he was sufficiently 
recovered, the party set sail for Savannah. As his health 
was not fully re-established, Mrs. Greene kindly invited him 
to go with the family to her residence at Mulberry Grove, near 
Savannah, and remain until he was recruited. The invitation 
was accepted ; but lest he should not yet have lost all power 
of communicating that dreadful disease, Mrs. Greene had 
white flags (the meaning of which was well understood) hoist- 
ed at the landing, and at all the avenues leading to the house. 
As a requital for her hospitality, her guest procured the virus 
and inoculated all the servants of the household, more than 
fifty in number, and carried them safely through the disorder. 

Mr. Whitney had scarcely set his foot in Georgia, before he 
was met by a disappointment which was an earnest of that 
long series of adverse events which, with scarcely an exception, 
attended all his future negotiations in the same State.* On his 
arrival, he was informed that Mr. B. had employed another 
teacher, leaving Whitney entirely without resources or friends, 
except those whom he had made in the family of Gen. Greene. 
In these benevolent people, however, his case excited much 
interest, and Mrs. Greene kindly said to him, my young friend, 
you propose studying the law ; make my house your home, 
your room your castle, and there pursue what studies you 
please. He accordingly commenced the study of law under 
that hospitable roof. 

Mrs. Greene was engaged in a piece of embroidery in which 



* In a letter to his friend, Josiah Stebbins, Esq., (the late Judge Stebbins of Maine,) 
dated Geo., April 11, 1793, Mr. Whitney says, " Fortune has stood with her back 
towards me ever since I have been here." It does not appear that so far as related 
to Georgia, he ever found her position reversed. 



13 

she employed a peculiar kind of frame called a tambour. She 
complained that it was badly constructed, and that it tore 
the delicate threads of her work. Mr. Whitney, eager for an 
opportunity to oblige his hostess, set himself at work and 
speedily produced a tambour frame made on a plan entirely 
new, which he presented to her. Mrs. Greene and her family 
were greatly delighted with it, and thought it a wonderful 
proof of ingenuity.* 

Not long afterwards, a large party of gentlemen came from 
Augusta and the Upper country, to visit the family of Gen. 
Greene, consisting principally of officers who had served un- 
der the General in the Revolutionary army. Among the 
number were Major Bremen, Major Forsyth, and Major 
Pendleton. They fell into conversation upon the state of ag- 
riculture among them, and expressed great regret that there 
was no means of cleaning the green seed cotton, or separating 
it from its seed, since all the lands which were unsuitable for 
the cultivation of rice, would yield large crops of cotton. But 
until ingenuity could devise some machine which would great- 
ly facilitate the process of cleaning, it was in vain to think of 
raising cotton for market. Separating one pound of the clean 
staple from the seed was a day's work for a woman ; but the 
time usually devoted to picking cotton was the evening, after 
the labor of the field was over. Then the slaves, men, women 
and children, were collected in circles with one whose duty 
it was to rouse the dozing and quicken the indolent. While 
the company were engaged in this conversation, " gentlemen 
(said Mrs. Greene,) apply to my young friend, Mr. Whitney 
he can make any thing." Upon which she conducted them 
into a neighboring room, and showed them her tambour frame, 
and a number of toys which Mr. W. had made, or repaired 
for the children. She then introduced the gentlemen to Whit- 
ney himself, extolling his genius and commending him to their 



* Several years afterwards, his partner, Mr. Miller, writes to Mr. Whitney, "I 
presume your skill in mechanics is likely to give you employment enough with the 
ladies ; for your name is often coupled with work-frames, needles, &c. &c. ; so that 
I apprehend you will ultimately be compelled to become ignorant and unskilful in. 
these things, hi your own defence." 



14 

notice and friendship. He modestly disclaimed all pretensions 
to mechanical genius ; and when they named their object, he 
replied that he had never seen either cotton or cotton seed in 
his life. Mrs. G. said to one of the gentlemen, " I have ac- 
complished my aim. Mr. Whitney is a very deserving young 
man, and to bring him into notice was my object. The inter- 
est which our friends now feel for him, will, I hope, lead to his 
getting some employment to enable him to prosecute the study 
of the law." 

But a new turn that no one of the company dreamed of, 
had been given to Mr. Whitney's views. It being out of sea- 
son for cotton in the seed, he went to Savannah and searched 
among the warehouses and boats, until he found a small par- 
cel of it. This he carried home, and communicated his in- 
tentions to Mr. Miller, who warmly encouraged him, and 
assigned him a room in the basement of the house, where he 
set himself at work with such rude materials and instruments 
as a Georgia plantation afforded. With these resources, how- 
ever, he made tools better suited to his purpose, and drew his 
own wire, (of which the teeth of the earliest gins were made,) 
an article which was not at that time to be found in the mark- 
et of Savannah. Mrs. Greene and Mr. Miller were the only 
persons ever admitted to his workshop, and the only persons 
who knew in what way he was employing himself. The 
many hours he spent in his mysterious pursuits, afforded mat- 
ter of great curiosity and often of raillery to the younger 
members of the family. Near the close of the winter, the 
machine was so nearly completed as to leave no doubt of its 
success. 

Mrs. Greene was eager to communicate to her numerous 
friends the knowledge of this important invention, peculiarly 
important at that time, because then the market was glutted 
with all those articles which were suited to the climate and 
soil of Georgia, and nothing could be found to give occupation 
to the negroes, and support to the white inhabitants. This 
opened suddenly to the planters boundless resources of wealth, 
and rendered the occupations of the slaves less unhealthy and 
laborious than they had been before. 






15 

Mrs. Greene, therefore, invited to her house gentlemen from 
different parts of the State, and on the first day after they had 
assembled, she conducted them to a temporary building, which 
had been erected for the machine, and they saw with aston- 
ishment and delight, that more cotton could be separated from 
the seed in one day, by the labor of a single hand, than could 
be done in the usual manner in the space of marty months. 

Mr. Whitney might now have indulged in bright reveries of 
fortune and of fame ; but we shall have various opportunities 
of seeing, that he tempered his inventive genius with an un- 
usual share of the calm, considerate qualities of the financier. 
Although urged by his friends to secure a patent, and devote 
himself to the manufacture and introduction of his machines, 
he coolly replied, that on account of the great expense and 
trouble which always attend the introduction of a new inven- 
tion, and the difficulty of enforcing a law in favor of paten- 
tees, in opposition to the individual interests of so large a 
number of persons as would be concerned in the culture of 
this article, it was with great reluctance that he should consent 
to relinquish the hopes of a lucrative profession, for which he 
had been destined, with an expectation of indemnity either 
from the justice or the gratitude of his countrymen, even should 
the invention answer the most sanguine anticipations of his 
friends. 

The individual who contributed most to incite him to per- 
severe in the undertaking, was Phineas Miller, Esq. Mr. 
Miller was a native of Connecticut, and a graduate of Yale 
College. Like Mr. Whitney, soon after he had completed his 
education at college, he came to Georgia as a private teacher, 
in the family of Gen. Greene, and after the decease of the 
General, he became the husband of Mrs. Greene. He had 
qualified himself for the profession of law, and was a gentle- 
man of cultivated mind and superior talents ; but he was of 
an ardent temperament, and therefore well fitted to enter with 
zeal into the views which the genius of his friend had laid 
open to him. He had also considerable funds at command, 
and proposed to Mr. Whitney to become his joint adventurer, 
and to be at the whole expense of maturing the invention until 



16 

it should be patented. If the machine should succeed in its 
intended operation, the parties agreed, under legal formalities, 
" that the profits and advantages arising therefrom, as well as 
all privileges and emoluments to be derived from patenting, 
making, vending, and working the same, should be mutually 
and equally shared between them." This instrument bears 
date May 2%, 1793, and immediately afterwards they commen- 
ced business, under the firm of Miller fy Whitney. 

An invention so important to the agricultural interest, (and, 
as has proved, to every department of human industry,) could 
not long remain a secret. The knowledge of it soon spread 
through the State, and so great was the excitement on the 
subject, that multitudes of persons came from all quarters of the 
State to see the machine ; but it was not deemed safe to grat- 
ify their curiosity until the pateixt-right had been secured. 
But so determined were some of the populace to possess this 
treasure, that neither law nor justice could restrain them they 
broke open the building by night and carried off the machine. 
In this way the public became possessed of the invention ; and 
before Mr. Whitney could complete his model and secure his 
patent, a number of machines were in successful operation, 
constructed with some slight deviation from the original, with 
the hope of evading the penalty for violating the patent-right. 

As soon as the copartnership of Miller & Whitney was 
formed, Mr. Whitney repaired to Connecticut, where, as far as 
possible, he was to perfect the machine, obtain a patent, and 
manufacture and ship for Georgia such a number of machines 
as would supply the demand. 

Within three days after the conclusion of the copartnership, 
Mr. Whitney having set out for the north, Mr. Miller com- 
menced his long correspondence relative to the Cotton Gin.* 
The first letter announces that encroachments upon their rights 
had already commenced. " It will be necessary (says Mr. 
Miller) to have a considerable number of gins made, to be in 
readiness to send out as soon as the patent is obtained, in or- 
der to satisfy the absolute demand, and make people's heads 

* This name was not applied by the inventor, but became such by popular use. 



17 

easy on the subject ; for I am informed of two other claimants 
for the honor of the invention of cotton gins, in addition to 
those we knew before." 

On the 20th of June, 1793, Mr. Whitney presented his pe- 
tition for a patent to Mr. Jefferson, then Secretary of State ; 
but the prevalence of the yellow fever in Philadelphia, (which 
was then the seat of government,) prevented his concluding 
the business relative to the patent, until several months after- 
wards. To prevent being anticipated, he took however the 
precaution to make oath to the invention before the Notary 
Public of the city of New Haven, which he did on the 28th 
of October, of the same year. 

Mr. Jefferson, who had much curiosity in regard to mechan- 
ical inventions, took a peculiar interest in this machine, and 
addressed to the inventor an obliging letter, desiring farther 
particulars respecting it, and expressing a wish to procure one 
for his own use. Mr. Whitney accordingly sketched the his- 
tory of the invention, and of the construction and perform- 
ances of the machine. " It is about a year (says he) since* I 
~first turned my attention to constructing this machine, at which 
time I was in the State of Georgia. Within about ten days 
after my first conception of the plan, I made a small, though 
imperfect model. Experiments with this encquraged me to 
make one on a larger scale ; but the extreme difficulty of pro- 
curing workmen and proper materials in Georgia, prevented 
my completing the larger one until some time in April last. 
This, though much larger than my first attempt, is not above 
one third as large as the machines may be made with conven- 
ience. The cylinder is only two feet two inches in length, 
and six inches diameter. It is turned by hand, and requires 
the strength of one man to keep it in constant motion. It is 
the stated task of one negro to clean fifty weight, (I mean fifty 
pounds after it is separated from the seed,) of the green seed 
cotton per day." In the same letter Mr. J efferson assured Mr. 
Whitney, that a patent would be granted as soon as the model 
was lodged in the Patent Office. In mentioning the favorable 

* This letter is dated Nov. 24, 1793. 



18 

notice of Mr. Jefferson to his friend Stebbins, he adds, with 
characteristic moderation, I hope, by perseverance, I shall make 
something of it yet. 

At the close of this year, (1793,) Mr. Whitney was to return 
to Georgia with his cotton gins, and Mr. Miller had made ar- 
rangements for commencing business immediately after his ar- 
rival. The plan was to erect machines in every part of the 
cotton district, and engross the entire business themselves. 
This was evidently an unfortunate scheme. It rendered the 
business very extensive and complicated, and as it did not at 
once supply the demands of the cotton growers, it multiplied 
the inducements to make the machines in violation of the 
patent. Had the proprietors confined their views to the manu- 
facture of the machines, and to the sale of patent rights, it is 
probable they would have avoided some of the difficulties with 
which they afterwards had to contend. The prospect of 
making suddenly an immense fortune by the business of gin- 
ning, where every third pound of cotton (worth at that time 
from twenty five to thirty three cents) was their own, pre- 
sented great and peculiar attractions. Mr. Whitney's return 
to Georgia was delayed until the following April. The im- 
portunity of Mr. Miller's letters, written during the preceding 
period, urgingjiim to come on, evinces how eager the Geor- 
gia planters were to enter the new field of enterprise, which 
the genius of Whitney had laid open to them. Nor did they, 
at first, in general, contemplate availing themselves of the in- 
vention unlawfully. But the minds of the more honorable 
class of planters were afterwards deluded by various artifices, 
set on foot by designing men, with the view of robbing Mr. 
Whitney of his just right. To these we shall advert more par- 
ticularly hereafter. 

One of the greatest difficulties experienced by men of enter- 
prise, at the period under review, was the extreme scarcity of 
money. In order to carry on the manufacture of cotton gins, 
and to make advances in the purchase of cotton, and establish- 
ments for ginning, to an extent in any degree proportioned to 
their wishes, Miller & Whitney required a much greater cap- 
ital than they could command ; and the sanguine temperament 



19 

of Mr. Miller was constantly prompting him to advance in 
hazards, much farther than the more cautious spirit of Mr. 
Whitney would follow. But even the latter found it necessary 
sometimes to borrow money at an enormous interest. The first 
loan (for two thousand dollars) was made on terms which were 
deemed at that time peculiarly favorable ; yet the company 
were to pay five per cent, premium in addition to the lawful 
interest. This was in 1794. In consequence of the numer- 
ous speculations in new lands into which so many of our coun- 
trymen were deluded, and the wantpf confidence created by 
the very application for a loan, the pressure for money was 
continually increasing. In 1796, Mr. Whitney applied to a 
friend in Boston to raise money for him on a loan, and received 
the following reply: " I applied to one of those vultures called 
brokers, who are preying on the purse-strings of the industri- 
ous, and was informed that he can procure the sum you wish 
at a premium of twenty per cent, on the following conditions, 
viz : You must make over and deposit with him public secu- 
rities, such as funded stock, bank stock, or any kind of State 
notes, or Connecticut reservation land certificates, sufficient, at 
the going prices, fully to secure the debt and premium." In a 
more embarrassed state of Mr. Miller's private affairs, several 
years afterwards, he paid the enormous interest of five, six, 
and even seven per cent, per month. 

We have said that the loan contracted by Mr. Whitney, in 
1794, at a premium of five per cent, in addition to the lawful 
interest, was regarded as peculiarly favorable ; this is evident 
from the fact that, during the same year, Mr. Miller urges him 
to contract a new loan, if possible, for three thousand dollars, 
at twelve or fourteen per cent, provided it could be extended 
over a year. 

In July, 1794, Mr. Whitney was confined by a severe ill- 
ness, from which he recovered slowly; but his business re- 
ceived a still farther interruption from a very fatal sickness, (the 
scarlet fever,) which prevailed in New Haven during this year, 
and which attacked a number of his workmen. 

Under all these discouragements, Mr. Miller was constantly 
writing the most urgent letters from Georgia, to press forward 



20 

the manufacture of machines. " Do not let a deficiency of 
money, do not let any thing (says Mr. Miller) hinder the speedy 
construction of the gins. The people of the country are al- 
most running mad for them, and much can be said to justify 
their importunity. When the present crop is harvested, there 
will be a real property of at least fifty thousand, yes, of a hun- 
dred thousand dollars, lying useless, unless we can enable the 
holders to bring it to market. Pray remember that we must 
have from fifty to one hundred gins between this and another 
fall,* if there are any workmen in New England, or in the 
Middle States, to make them. In two years we will begin to 
take long steps up hill, in the business of patent ginning, for- 
tune favoring." 

The general resort of the planters to the cultivation of cot- 
ton, and its consequent production in vast quantities, the value 
of which depended entirely upon the chance of getting it clean- 
ed by the gin, created great uneasiness, which first displayed 
itself in this pressure upon Miller & Whitney, and afterwards 
afforded great encouragement to the marauders upon the pa- 
tent-right, who were now becoming numerous and audacious. 

The roller gin was at first the most formidable competitor 
with Whitney's Machine. It extricated the seeds by means of 
rollers, crushing them between revolving cylinders, instead of 
disengaging them by means of teeth. The fragments of seeds 
which remained in the cotton, rendered its execution much in- 
ferior in this respect to Whitney's gin, and it was also much 
slower in its operation. Great efforts were made, however, to 
create an impression in favor of its superiority in other re- 
spects, to which we shall advert by and by. 

But a still more formidable rival appeared early in the year 
1795, under the name of the Saw Gin. It was Whitney's gin, 
except that the teeth were cut in circular rims of iron, instead 
of being made of wires, as was the case in the earlier forms 
of the patent gin. The idea of such teeth had early occurred 
to Mr. Whitney, as he afterwards established by legal proof. 
But they would have been of no use except in connection with 
the other parts of his machine ; and, therefore, this was a pal- 

* This letter is dated Oct. 26, 1794. 



21 

pable attempt to evade the patent-right, and it was principally 
in reference to this, that the lawsuits were afterwards held. 

In March, 1795, in the midst of these perplexities and dis- 
couragements, Mr. Whitney went to New York, on business, 
and was detained there three weeks, by an attack of fever and 
ague, the seeds of which had been sown the previous season 
in Georgia. As soon as he was able to leave the house, he 
embarked on board a packet for New Haven. On his arrival 
at this place, he was suffering under one of those chills which 
precede the fever. As was usual, on the arrival of the packet, 
people came on board to welcome their friends, and to ex- 
change salutations, when Mr. Whitney was informed that on 
the preceding day his shop, with all his machines and papers, 
had been consumed by fire ! Thus, suddenly, was he reduced 
to absolute bankruptcy, having debts to the amount of four 
thousand dollars, without any means of making payment. 
Mr. Whitney, however, had not a spirit to despond under dif- 
ficulties and disappointments, but was aroused by them to still 
more vigorous efforts. 

Mr. Miller, also, on hearing of this catastrophe, manifested 
a kindred spirit. The letters written by Mr. Whitney on the 
occasion, we have not been able to obtain ; but the reply of 
Mr. Miller indicates what were the feelings of both parties. 
It. may be of service to enterprising young men, who meet 
with misfortunes, to read an extract or two. 

" I think with you, (says Mr. M,,) that we ought to meet such 
events with equanimity. We have been pursuing a valuable 
object by honorable means ; and I trust that all our measures 
have been such as reason and virtue must justify. It has 
pleased Providence to postpone the attainment of this object. 
In the midst of the reflections which your story has suggested, 
and with feelings keenly awake to the heavy, the extensive 
injury we have sustained, I feel a secret joy and satisfaction, 
that you possess a mind in this respect similar to my own 
that you are not disheartened that you do not relinquish the 
pursuit and that you will persevere, and endeavor at all 
events to attain the main object. This is exactly consonant 
to my own determinations. I will devote all my time, all my 



22 

thoughts, all my exertions, and all the money I can earn or 
borrow, to encompass and complete the business we have un- 
dertaken ; and if fortune should, by any future disaster, deny 
us the boon we ask, we will at least deserve it. It shall never 
be said that we have lost an object which a little perseverance 
could have attained. I think, indeed, it will be very extraor- 
dinary, if two young men, in the prime of life, with some share 
of ingenuity, with a little knowledge of the world, a great deal 
of industry, and a considerable command of property, should 
not be able to sustain such a stroke of misfortune as this, heavy 
as it is." 

After this disaster the company began to feel much straight- 
ened for want of funds. Mr. Miller expresses a confidence 
that they should be able to raise money in some way or other, 
though he knows not how. He recommends to Mr. Whitney 
to proceed forthwith to erect a new shop, and to recommence 
his business ; and requests him to tell the people of New Ha- 
ven, who might be disposed to render them any service, that 
they required nothing but a little time to get their machinery 
in motion, before they could make payment, and that the loan 
of money at twelve per cent, per annum would be as great a 
favor as they could ask. But, he adds, " in doing this, use 
great care to avoid giving an idea that we are in a desperate 
situation, to induce us to borrow money. To people who are 
deficient in understanding, this precaution will be extremely 
necessary ; men of sense can easily distinguish between the 
prospect of large gains and the approaches to bankruptcy. 
Such is the disposition of man, (he observes on another occa- 
sion,) that while we keep afloat, there will not be wanting 
those who will appear willing to assist us ; but let us once be 
given over, and they will immediately desert us." 

While struggling with these multiplied misfortunes, intelli- 
gence was received from England, which threatened to give 
a final blow to all their hopes. It was, that the English manu- 
facturers condemned the cotton cleaned by their machines, 
on the ground that the staple was greatly injured. On the 
receipt of this intelligence, Mr. Miller writes as follows : 
" This stroke of misfortune is much heavier than that of 



23 

the fire, unless the impression is immediately removed. For, 
with that which now governs the public mind on this sub- 
ject, our patent would be worth extremely little. Every one 
is afraid of the cotton. Not a purchaser in Savannah will 
pay full price for it. Even the merchants with whom I have 
made a contract for purchasing, begin to part with their money 
reluctantly. The trespassers on our right only laugh at our 
suits, and several of the most active men are now putting up 
the roller gins ; and, what is to the last degree vexing, many 
prefer their cotton to ours." 

At this time, (1796,) Miller & Whitney had thirty gins, at 
eight different places in the State of Georgia, some of which 
were carried by horses or oxen, and some by water. A num- 
ber of these were standing still for want of the means of sup- 
plying them. The company had also invested about 810,000 
in real estate, which was suited only to the purposes of gin- 
ning cotton. All things now conspired to threaten them with 
deep insolvency. Under date of April 27th, Mr. Miller writes 
thus : " A few moments only are allowed me to tell you, that 
the industry of our opponents is daily increasing, and that pre- 
judices appear to be rapidly extending themselves in London 
against our cotton. Hasten to London, if you return imme- 
diately our fortune, our fate depends on it. The process of 
patent ginning is now quite at a stand. I hear nothing of it, 
except the condolence of a few real friends, who express their 
regret that so promising an invention has entirely failed." 

Through nearly the whole of the year 1796, Mr. Whitney 
was on the eve of departing for England, whither he was go- 
ing with the view of learning the certainty of the prejudices, 
which were so currently reported to be entertained by the 
English manufacturers against the cotton cleaned by the patent 
gin, and the fame of which was so industriously circulated 
throughout the southern papers ; and should he find these pre- 
judices to exist, firmly believing, as the event has shown, that 
they were utterly unfounded, he hoped to be able to remove 
them by challenging the most rigorous trials. He had several 
times fixed on the day of his departure, and on one occasion 
had actually engaged his passage and taken leave of some of 



24 

his friends. But he was in each case thwarted by an unex- 
pected disappointment in regard to the funds necessary to de- 
fray the expenses of the journey. 

Mr. Whitney had counted on obtaining one thousand dollars 
for this -purpose, through the aid of Mr. John C. Nightingale, 
who, having married a daughter of Mrs. Miller, had become 
interested in their concerns. Mr. Nightingale had inherited a 
considerable fortune, but had become greatly embarrassed by 
speculations in the Yazoo lands. He had, however, some 
credit left, while neither Miller nor Whitney, nor both together, 
had credit enough to borrow a thousand dollars. The plan 
was, therefore, for Nightingale to borrow the money and lend 
it to them ; and Miller urges this, even at the rate of thirty 
per cent, per annum. After various ineffectual trials, Night- 
ingale abandoned all hope of affording the promised succor, 
and thus Whitney was compelled to forego the great advan- 
tages he confidently anticipated from the voyage to England. 

We regret that we have not been able to obtain the letters 
written at this period by Mr. Whitney to his partner, but the 
nature of their contents will be easily gathered from those of 
Mr. Miller. 

In March, 1797, Mr. Miller says, "Unless Nightingale should 
have the power to assist you with some supplies, which your 
letter furnishes little ground to hope, I foresee that our money 
engagements cannot be complied with ; and we can only re- 
gret as a misfortune what we cannot remedy. In the event 
of this failure, I can only take to myself the one half of the 
blame which may attach itself to our misplaced confidence in 
the public opinion. I confess myself to have been entirely 
deceived in supposing that an egregious error, and a general 
deception with regard to the quality of our cotton, could not 
long continue to influence the whole of the manufacturing, the 
mercantile, and the planting interests, against us. But the 
reverse of this fact, allowing the staple of our cotton to be 
uninjured, has to our sorrow proved true, and I have long 
apprehended that our ruin would be the inevitable conse- 
quence. 

" I am now devoting my time and attention to prepare, in 



25 

the best manner in my power, the suits which are to be tried 
in April ; and am determined that all the dark clouds of ad- 
versity, which at present overshadow our affairs, shall not 
abate my ardor in laboring to burst through them, in order 
to reach the dawn of prosperity, that has so long been with- 
held from our view." 

Notwithstanding the disastrous condition of the affairs of 
Miller & Whitney, Mr. Nightingale, who was of an adven- 
turous spirit, having partially extricated himself from his own 
embarrassments, was ready to purchase a part of their con- 
cern, and offered upon certain conditions to advance five thou- 
sand dollars to the company. 

We have before us a letter written by Mr. Whitney, dated 
Oct. 7th, 1797, from which it will be seen what was the state 
of his affairs and of his feelings at this period. " The extreme 
embarrassments (says he) which have been for a long time ac- 
cumulating upon me, are now become so great, that it will be 
impossible for me to struggle against them many days longer. 
It has required my utmost exertions to exist, without making 
the least progress in our business. I have labored hard against 
the strong current of disappointment, which has been threat- 
ening to carry us down the cataract, but I have labored with 
a shattered oar and struggled in vain, unless some speedy 
relief is obtained. I am now quite far enough advanced in 
life to think seriously of marrying. I have ever looked for- 
ward with pleasure to an alliance with an amiable and virtuous 
companion, as a source from whence I have expected one day 
to derive the greatest happiness. But the accomplishment of 
. my tour to Europe, and the acquisition of something which I 
can call my own, appears to be absolutely necessary, before it 
will be admissable for me even to think of family engagements. 
Probably a year and a half, at least, will be required to per- 
form that tour, after it is entered upon. Life is but short at 
best, and six or seven years out of the midst of it, is, to him 
who makes it, an immense sacrifice. My most unremitted 
attention has been devoted to our business. I have sacrificed 
to it other objects from which, before this time, I might cer- 
tainly have gained twenty or thirty thousand dollars. My 



26 

whole prospects have been embarked in it, with the expectation 
that I should, before this time, have realized something from it." 

These observations are made with reference to a proposi- 
tion which he had brought forward, to be allowed to retain 
a certain portion of the proceeds of the receipts from Mr. 
Nightingale as his private property ; or, at least, to be per- 
mitted to adopt such arrangements as would secure it to him 
after a limited period. But the involved state of the company 
concerns was such that Mr. Miller would not consent to such 
an arrangement, nor does it appear to have ever been made. 
However, brighter prospects seemed now to be opening upon 
them, from the more favorable reports that were made re- 
specting the quality of their cotton. Respectable manufac- 
turers, both at home and abroad, gave favorable certificates, 
and retailing merchants sought for the cotton cleaned by 
Whitney's gin, because it was greatly preferred by their cus- 
tomers to any other in the market. This favorable turn in 
public opinion, would have restored prosperity to the com- 
pany, had not the encroachments on the patent-right become 
so extensive as almost to annihilate its value. 

The issue of the first trial they were able to obtain, is an- 
nounced in the following letter from Mr. Miller, dated May 
11, 1797. 

" The event of the first patent suit, after all our exertions 
made in such a variety of ways, has gone against us. The 
preposterous custom of trying civil causes of this intricacy 
and magnitude, by a common jury, together with the imper- 
fection of the patent law, frustrated all our views, and disap- 
pointed expectations, which had become very sanguine. The 
tide of popular opinion was running in our favor, the Judge 
was well disposed towards us, and many decided friends were 
with us, who adhered firmly to our cause and interests. The 
Judge gave a charge to the jury pointedly in our favor ; after 
which the defendant himself told an acquaintance of his, that 
he would give two thousand dollars to be free from the ver- 
dict ; and yet the jury gave it against us after a consultation 
of about an hour. And having made the verdict general, no 
appeal would lie. 



27 

" On Monday morning, when the verdict was rendered, we 
applied for a new trial ; but the Judge refused it to us on the 
ground that the jury might have made up their opinion on 
the defect of the law, which makes an aggression consist of 
making, devising, and using, or selling : whereas we could 
only charge the defendant with using. 

" Thus after four years of assiduous labor, fatigue and diffi- 
culty, are we again set afloat by a new and most unexpected 
obstacle. Our hopes of success are now removed to a period 
still more distant than before, while our expenses are realized 
beyond all controversy." 

Great efforts were made to obtain a trial in a second suit, 
at the session of the court in Savannah, in May, 1798. A 
great number of witnesses were collected from various parts 
of the country, to the distance of a hundred miles from Sa- 
vannah, when, behold, no Judge appeared, and of course no 
court was held. In consequence of the failure of the first suit, 
and so great a procrastination of the second, the encroach- 
ments on the patent-right had been prodigiously multiplied, so 
as almost entirely to destroy the business of the patentees. 

In April, 1799, Mr. Miller writes as follows. " The pros- 
pect of making any thing by ginning in this State, is at an end. 
Surreptitious gins are erected in every part of the country ; 
and the jurymen at Augusta have come to an understanding 
among themselves, that they will never give a verdict in our 
favor, let the merits of the case be as they may." 

The company would now have gladly relinquished the plan 
of working their own machines, and confined their operations 
to the sale of patent-rights ; but few would buy a patent-right 
which they could use with impunity without purchasing, and 
those few, hardly in a single instance, paid cash, but gave their 
notes, which they afterwards to a great extent avoided paying, 
either by obtaining a verdict from the juries declaring them 
void, or by contriving to postpone the collection until they 
were barred by the statute of limitations, a period of only 
four years. When thus barred, the agent of Miller & Whit- 
ney, who was dispatched on a collecting tour through the 
State of Georgia, informed them, that such obstacles were 



28 

thrown in his way from one or the other of the foregoing 
causes, he was unable to collect money enough from all these 
claims to bear his expenses, but was compelled to draw for 
nearly the whole amount of these upon his employers. 

The agent here referred to was Russel Goodrich, Esq., who 
had engaged in the service of Miller & Whitney, as early as 
the year 1798. He was educated at Yale College, in the same 
class with Mr. Miller, and was for many years an able and 
zealous agent in the affairs, first of the company, and after the 
decease of Mr. Miller, of Mr. Whitney. 

In a letter addressed to Mr. Whitney, dated Georgia, Sep- 
tember 3d, 1801, Mr. Goodrich writes thus : "I have spent a 
part of this summer in South Carolina, upon the business of 
Miller & Whitney. Many of the planters of that region ex- 
pressed an opinion, that if an application were made to their 
legislature by the citizens to purchase the right of the paten- 
tees for that State, there was no doubt that it would be done 
to the satisfaction of all parties. Accordingly, they had peti- 
tions circulated among the people, which appeared to be gen- 
erally approved of, and were very generally signed." Mr. 
Goodrich further urges the importance of Mr. 'Whitney's com- 
ing on to South Carolina, to attend at the approaching session 
of the legislature, in order to make the proposed contract. 

Accordingly, Mr. Whitney repaired to Columbia, taking the 
city of Washington in his way, where he was furnished with 
very obliging letters from President Jefferson and Mr. Madi- 
son, then Secretary of State, testimonials which no doubt 
were of great service to him in his subsequent negotiations. 
Soon after the opening of the session of the legislature, in the 
month of Dec., 1801, the business was regularly brought before 
the legislature, and a joint committee of both Houses appointed 
to treat with the patentees. To this committee Messrs. Miller 
& Whitney submitted the following proposals : 

" To the Joint Committee of both Houses of the Legislature of South Carolina. 

" GENTLEMEN, 

" The subscribers, in estimating the value of their property 
in the Patent Machine for cleaning cotton, commonly called the 
Saw Gin, are influenced by the following considerations, viz : 



29 

" That no right of property is so well founded in nature, as 
that of one's own invention ; that their fellow citizens by their 
representatives in the national Government, from considera- 
tions both of policy and justice, have declared that individuals 
who will use their exertions to acquire this species of prop- 
erty, shall enjoy an exclusive right in the same for fourteen 
years ; that influenced by, and relying on, these declarations 
of their country, they have spent a number of years, and ex- 
hausted their funds, in inventing and bringing into use, their 
Saw Gin ; that notwithstanding the innumerable misrepresen- 
tations and prejudices which have gone forth respecting this 
concern, they have firm reliance on the laws of their country, 
and feel a conscious rectitude in the justice of their cause. 

" When we look around and see many of our fellow citi- 
zens, who are engaged in pursuits exclusively for their own 
benefit, guarded and protected in those pursuits by the laws 
of their country, we cannot believe that those who have con- 
tributed, in any degree, to benefit their fellow citizens and the 
public, will be deprived of the same protection, and aban- 
doned to poverty. 

" We will not go into any detailed calculations as to the 
value of this invention, but only observe, that the citizens of 
South Carolina have gained, and will gain, many millions of 
dollars by the use of this machine, which they never could 
have acquired without it. Being under embarrassments in 
consequence of debts incurred in prosecuting this undertaking, 
and desirous of obtaining some compensation for our labors, 
we will not measure our demand by the value of the property, 
but are willing to dispose of it to the State of South Carolina 
for a sum far below its real value ; and therefore we submit 
to the committee the following PROPOSALS : 

" The subscribers will relinquish and transfer to the legisla- 
ture of South Carolina so much of their patent-right of the 
machine for separating cotton from its seeds, commonly called 
the Saw Gin, as appertains to said State, for the sum of one 
hundred thousand dollars, the one half of the said sum to be 
paid on the transfer of said right, the other by installments, as 
shall be hereafter agreed upon. MILLER & WHITNEY." 

4 



30 

Aftdt some discussion, it was agreed by the legislature to 
offer to the patentees the sum of fifty thousand dollars. We 
subjoin a letter, addressed at this time by Mr. Whitney to his 
friend Stebbins, both as a statement of the particulars relating 
to the contract, and as evincive of the feelings of the writer : 

" COLUMBIA, South Carolina, Dec. 20, 1801. 

" Dear Stebbins, 

" I have been at this place a little more than two weeks, at- 
tending the legislature. They closed their session at ten 
o'clock last evening. A few hours previous to their adjourn- 
ment, they voted to purchase, for the State of South Carolina, 
my patent-right to the machine for cleaning cotton, at fifty 
thousand dollars, of which sum, twenty thousand is to be paid 
in hand, and the remainder in three annual payments of ten 
thousand dollars each. 

"This is selling the right at a great sacrifice. If a regular 
course of law had been pursued, from two to three hundred 
thousand dollars would undoubtedly have been recovered. The 
use of the machine here is amazingly extensive, and the value of 
it beyond all calculation. It may, without exaggeration, be said 
to have raised the value of seven eights of all the three South- 
ern States from fifty to one hundred per cent. We get but a 
song for it in comparison with the worth of the thing ; but it 
is securing something. It will enable Miller & Whitney to 
pay all their debts, and divide something between them. It 
establishes a precedent which will be valuable as it respects our 
collections in other States, and I think there is now a fair 
prospect that I shall in the event realize property enough to 
render me comfortable, and in some measure independent. 

"Though my stay here has been short, I have become ac- 
quainted with a considerable part of the members of the legis- 
lature, and of the most distinguished characters in the State. 
My old classmate, H. D. W., is one of the Senate. He ranks 
among the first of his age in point of talents and respectability. 
He has shown me much polite attention, as have also many- 
others of the citizens. 

Truly your friend, 

/. Stebbins, Esq. ELI WHITNEY." 



31 

In December, 1802, Mr. Whitney negotiated a sale of his 
patent-right with the State of North Carolina. The legisla- 
ture laid a tax of two shillings and sixpence upon every saw* 
employed in ginning cotton, to be continued for five years, 
which sum was to be collected by the sheriffs in the same 
manner as the public taxes ; and after deducting the expenses 
of collection, the avails were faithfully paid over to the 
patentee. At that time the culture of cotton had made com- 
paratively little progress in the State of North Carolina ; but, 
in proportion to the amount of interest concerned, this com- 
pensation was regarded by Mr. Whitney as more liberal than 
that received from any other source. 

While these encouraging prospects were rising in North Car- 
olina, Mr. Goodrich, the agent of the company, was entering 
into a similar negotiation with the State of Tennessee. The im- 
portance of the machine began to be universally acknowledged 
in that State, and various public meetings of the citizens were 
held, in which were adopted resolutions strongly in favor of 
a public contract with Miller & Whitney, f Accordingly, the 
legislature of Tennessee, at their session in 1803, passed an 
act laying a tax of thirty seven cents and a half per annum on 
every saw, for the period of four years. 

But while a fairer day seemed dawning upon the company 
in this quarter, an unexpected and threatening cloud was rising 
in another. It was during Mr. Whitney's negotiation with 
the legislature of North Carolina, that he received intelligence 
that the legislature of South Carolina had annulled the con- 
tract made with Miller & Whitney the preceding year, had 
suspended payment of the balance (thirty thousand dollars) due 
them, and instituted a suit for the recovery of what had 
already been paid to them. 

The ostensible causes of this extraordinary measure adopted 
by the legislature of South Carolina, were a distrust of the 
validity of the patent-right, and failure on-the part of the pat- 
entees to perform certain conditions agreed on in the contract. 

* Some of the gins had forty saws. 

t Of one of these meetings. General Jackson, late President of the United States, 
was chairman. 



32 

Great exertions had constantly been made in Georgia to im- 
press the public with the nation, that Mr. Whitney was not 
the original inventor of the cotton gin, somebody in Switzer- 
land having conceived the idea of it before him, and, especially, 
that he was not entitled to the credit of the invention in its 
improved form, in which saws were used instead of wire teeth, 
inasmuch as this particular form of the machine was intro- 
duced by one Hodgin Holmes. It was on these grounds that 
the Governor of Georgia, in his message to the legislature of 
that State in 1803, urged the inexpediency of granting any 
thing to Miller & Whitney. We have before us a copy of 
the report of the committee appointed on that part of the Gov- 
ernor's message, and since it will serve to show both the 
grounds and the character of the opposition, we will subjoin 
a few extracts from it.* 

" The Committee to whom was referred, &c. Report : 
" That they have carefully attended to that part of the com- 
munication which relates to the Cotton Gin, and cordially 
agree with the Governor in his observations, that monopolies 
are at all times odious, particularly in free governments, and 
that some remedy ought to be applied to the wound which the 
cotton gin monopoly has given, and will otherwise continue to 
give, to the culture and cleaning of that precious and increas- 
ing staple. They have examined the Rev. James Hutchin- 
son, who declares that Edward Lyon, at least twelve months 
before Miller & Whitney's machine was brought into view, 
had in possession a saw or cotton gin, in miniature, of the 
same construction ; and it further appears to them, from the 
information of Doctor Cortes Pedro Dampiere, an old and re- 
spectable citizen of Columbia County, that a machine of a 
construction similar to that of Miller & Whitney, was used in 
Switzerland, at least forty years ago, for the purpose of pick- 
ing rags to make lint and paper. 

" That, however, as Congress has the constitutional power 

*In adverting to these transactions of former times, it is no part of our purpose to 
revive unpleasant recollections, or to throw discredit on the history of the very re- 
spectable States above named ; but without the recital of these facts, the life of 
Whitney could not have been written. 



33 

to establish patents of the nature of Miller & Whitney's, the 
commitee, uniting with the Governor in opinion that no legis- 
lative power but Congress can interfere, and also convinced 
that in the passage of the law Congress could have had no 
idea of laying the two Southern States, and in all probability 
North Carolina and Tennessee, under contribution to two 
individuals, (the article at the passing of the first act not being 
thought of, as about to become the principal staple of export 
from those States,) do recommend the following resolutions : 

" Resolved, That the Senators and Representatives of this 
State in Congress be, and they hereby are, instructed to use 
their utmost endeavors to obtain a modification of the act, en- 
titled an act to extend the privilege of obtaining Patents for 
useful discoveries and inventions, to certain persons therein 
mentioned, and to enlarge and define the penalties for violating 
the rights of patentees, so as to prevent the operation of it, to 
the injury of that most valuable staple cotton, and the cramp- 
ing of genius in improvements, in Miller & Whitney's pat- 
ent Gin, as well as to limit the price of obtaining a right of 
using it, the price at present being unbounded, and the planter 
and poor artificer altogether at the mercy of the patentees, 
who may raise the price to any sum they please. 

" And in case the said Senators and Representatives of this 
State shall find such modification impracticable, that they do- 
then use their best endeavors to induce Congress, from the ex- 
ample of other nations, to make compensation to Miller & 
Whitney for their discovery, take up the patent-right, and re- 
lease the Southern States from so burthensome a grievance. 

" Resolved, That his Excellency the Governor be requested 
to transmit copies of the foregoing report and resolutions to 
the Executives of the States of South Carolina, North Caro- 
lina, and Tennessee, to be laid before their respective legisla- 
tures, with a request of cooperation, through their Senators 
and Representatives in Congress." 

Popular feeling, stimulated by the most sordid motives, was 
now awakened throughout all the cotton-growing States. 
Tennessee followed the example of South Carolina, in sus- 
pending the payment of the tax laid upon cotton gins, and a. 



34 

similar attempt was made at a subsequent session of the legis- 
lature of North Carolina ; but it wholly failed, and the report of 
a committee, offering a resolution that " the contract ought to 
be fulfilled with punctuality and good faith," was adopted by 
both branches of the legislature. 

There were also high-minded men in South Carolina, who 
were indignant at the dishonorable measures adopted by their 
legislature of 1803, and their sentiments had impressed the 
community so favorably with regard to Mr. Whitney, that at 
the session of 1804, the legislature not only rescinded what the 
previous legislature had done, but signified their respect for 
Mr. Whitney, by marked commendations. 

Nor ought it to be forgotten, that there were in Georgia too 
those who viewed with scorn and indignation the base 
attempts of men, led by unprincipled demagogues, to defraud 
Mr. Whitney. The Augusta Herald of January 10, 1805, 
mentions the transactions in South Carolina in the following 
manner : 

" Our readers will no doubt recollect that the legislature of 
South Carolina, a year or two past, purchased of Messrs. Mil- 
ler & Whitney the patent-right of using the Saw Gin in that 
State, for the sum of fifty thousand dollars. In this contract, 
Mr. Whitney was obligated, within a stipulated time, to fur- 
nish the State with two models of the Saw Gin, of the best 
size and make, according to his opinion, for separating cotton 
from its seed. From some unexpected circumstances the 
models were not furnished in due time ; and some gross mis- 
representations having been made to a subsequent legislature 
of that State, and considerable improper exertion having been 
made to persuade them that Mr. Whitney was not the original 
inventor of the Saw Gin, they rather precipitately passed, an 
act for a resolution, suspending the execution of their con- 
tract, and directing a suit to be brought against Messrs. Miller 
& Whitney for the recovery of twenty thousand dollars, 
which, as part of the contract, had been paid them. At the 
last session of the legislature, Mr. Whitney was enabled 
not only to furnish satisfactory evidence of his being the 
original inventor of the gin, but to explain away all former 



35 

misrepresentations, and to show that the very patent of the 
person who had attempted to wrest from him his right, had 
been repealed in a court of justice. Two models of a gin 
were also furnished by Mr. Whitney, executed, we are told, in 
a most superior and masterly manner, and far surpassing in 
excellence any machinery of the kind ever before seen they 
were of metal, and so nicely and substantially made, that it 
was hardly possible for them to get out of order ; and they 
worked with such ease, that when the hopper of a forty Saw 
Gin was filled with cotton, the labor of turning it was not 
greater than that of turning a common grindstone. The mod- 
els were highly approved, and the legislature did not hesitate 
to do justice to the ingenious inventor, according to their orig- 
inal agreement ; and we are pleased to see that they dis- 
claimed the monstrous doctrine of a legislature's having au- 
thority to rescind a solemn contract made with an individual, 
and of their being justified in refusing to do right, because they 
have the power to do wrong. 

" Our sister State of South Carolina has usually been very 
far from discovering any disposition to do injustice to individ- 
uals, and their proceedings against Mr. Whitney were predi- 
cated upon imposition practised on them, and their recent con- 
duct evidences that they were satisfied thereof. 

" The following is the report of the committee : 
" The joint Committee of both branches of the legislature, to 

whom was referred the memorial of Eli Whitney, Report, 

" That on the most mature deliberation, they are of opinion 
that Miller & Whitney, from whom the State of South Caro- 
lina purchased the patent-right for using the Saw Gin within 
this State, have used due and proper diligence to refund the 
money and notes received by them from divers citizens ; and 
as from several unforeseen occurrences the said Miller & 
Whitney have heretofore been prevented from refunding the 
same, they therefore recommend that the money and notes 
aforesaid be deposited with the Comptroller General, to be 
paid over, on demand, to the several persons from whom the 
same have been received, upon their delivering up the licenses 
for which the said notes of hand were given, and said moneys 



36 

paid to the Comptroller General, and that he be directed to 
hold the said licenses subject to the order of said Whitney. 

" That the excellent and highly improved models now 
offered by the said Whitney, be received in full satisfaction of 
the stipulations of the contract between the State and Miller & 
Whitney, relative to the same ; and that the suit commenced 
by the State against said Miller & Whitney, be discontinued. 

" The joint committee taking every circumstance alledged in 
the memorial into their serious consideration, further recom- 
mend, that (as the good faith of this State is pledged for the 
payment of the purchase of the said patent-right) the contract 
be now fulfilled, as in their opinion it ought to be, according to 
the most strict justice and equity. 

" And although from the documents exhibited by said Whit- 
ney to the committee, they are of opinion that the said Whit- 
ney is the true, original inventor of the Saw Gin, yet in order 
to guard the citizens from any injury hereafter, the committee 
recommend, that before the remaining balance is paid, the said 
Whitney be required to give bond and security to the Comp- 
troller General, to indemnify each and every citizen of South 
Carolina against the legal claims of all persons whatsoever, 
other than the said Miller & Whitney, to any patent or exclu- 
sive right to the invention or improvement of the machine for 
separating cotton from its seeds, commonly called the Saw Gin, 
in the form and upon the principles which it is now and has 
heretofore been used in this State. 

" The preceding report was adopted by both branches of 
the legislature." 

When Mr. Whitney first heard of the transactions of the 
South Carolina legislature annulling their contract, he was at 
Raleigh, where he had just concluded his negotiation with the 
legislature of North Carolina. In a letter written to Mr. Mil- 
ler at this time he remarks : " I am, for my own part, more 
vexed than alarmed by their extraordinary proceedings. I 
think it behooves us to be very cautious and circumspect in our 
measures and even in our remarks with regard to it. Be cau- 
tious what you say or publish till we meet our enemies in a 
court of justice, when, if they have any sensibility left, we 



37 

will make them very much ashamed of their childish con- 
duct." 

But that Mr. Whitney felt very keenly in regard to the se- 
verities afterwards practised towards him, is evident from the 
tenor of the remonstrance which he presented to the legisla- 
ture. " The subscriber (says he) respectfully solicits permis- 
sion to represent to the legislature of South Carolina, that he 
conceives himself to have been treated with unreasonable se- 
verity in the measures recently taken against him by and under 
their immediate direction. He holds that, to be seized and 
dragged to prison without being allowed to be heard in answer 
to the charge alledged against him, and indeed without the ex- 
hibition of any specific charge, is a direct violation of the com- 
mon right of every citizen of a free government ; that the 
power, in this case, is all on one side ; that whatever may be 
the issue of the process now instituted against him, he must, in 
any case, be subjected to great expense and extreme hardships ; 
and that he considers the tribunal before which he is holden to 
appear, to be wholly incompetent to decide, definitely, existing 
disputes between the State and Miller & Whitney. 

" The subscriber avers that he has manifested no other than 
a disposition to fulfill all the stipulations entered into with the 
State of South Carolina, with punctuality and good faith ; and 
he begs leave to observe farther, that to have industriously, 
laboriously, and exclusively devoted many years of the prime 
of his life to the invention and the improvement of a ma- 
chine, from which the citizens of South Carolina have already 
realized immense profits, which is worth to them millions, 
and from which their posterity, to the latest generations, must 
continue to derive the most important benefits, and in return 
to be treated as a felon, a swindler, and a villain, has stung him 
to the very soul. And when he considers that this cruel per- 
secution is inflicted by the very persons who are enjoying 
these great benefits, and expressly for the purpose of prevent- 
ing his ever deriving the least advantage from his own labors, 
the acuteness of his feelings is altogether inexpressible." 

At this time a new and unexpected responsibility devolved 
on Mr. Whitney, in consequence of the death of his partner, 

5 



Mr. Miller, who died on the 7th of December, 1803. Mr. 
Miller had, in the early stages of the enterprise, indulged very 
high hopes of a sudden fortune ; but perpetual disappoint- 
ments appear to have attended him throughout the remainder 
of his life. The history of them, as detailed in his volumin- 
ous correspondence, which is now before us, affords an in- 
structive exemplification of the anxiety, toil, and uncertainty, 
that frequently accompany too eager a pursuit of wealth, and 
the pain and disappointment that follow in the train of ex- 
pectations too highly elated. If Mr. Miller anticipated a great 
bargain from an approaching auction of cotton, some sly ad- 
venturer was sure to step in before him, and bid it out of his 
hands. If he looked to his extensive rice crops, cultivated on 
the estate of General Greene, as the means of raising money 
to extricate himself from the numerous embarrassments into 
which he had fallen, a severe drought came on and shriveled 
the crop, or floods of rain suddenly destroyed it. The mar- 
kets unexpectedly changed at the very moment of selling, and 
always to his disadvantage. Heavy rains likewise destroyed 
the cotton crops on which he had counted for thousands ; and 
more than all, wicked and dishonest men contrived to cheat 
him of his just rights ; and thus his airy hopes were often frus- 
trated, until at length the speculations in Yazoo lands beguiled 
him into inextricable difficulties, and in the midst of all, and 
on the dawn of a brighter day, death stepped in and dissolved 
the pageant that had so long been dancing before his eyes. 

Mr. Whitney was now left alone, to contend singly against 
those difficulties which had for a series of years almost bro- 
ken down the spirits of both the partners. The light, more- 
over, which seemed to be rising upon them, from the favorable 
occurrences of the preceding year, proved but. the twilight of 
prosperity, and a darker night seemed about to supervene. 

But the favorable issue of the affairs of Mr. Whitney in 
South Carolina, during the subsequent year, and the generous 
receipts that he obtained from the avails of his contracts with 
North Carolina, relieved him from the embarrassments under 
which he had so long groaned, and made him in some degree 
independent. Still, no small portion of the funds thus collected 



39 

in North and South Carolina, was expended in carrying on 
the fruitless, endless lawsuits in Georgia. 

In the United States Court, held in Georgia, in December, 
1807, Mr. Whitney obtained a most important decision, in a 
suit brought against a trespasser of the name of Fort. It was 
on this trial that Judge Johnson gave his celebrated decision. 
It was in the following words : 

" Whitney, survivor of ^ 
Miller ^Whitney, I ]n equi(y _ 

Arthur Fort. J 

" The complainants, in this case, are proprietors of the ma- 
chine called the saw gin. The use of which is to detach the 
short staple cotton from its seed. 

" The defendant, in violation of their patent-right, has con- 
structed, and continues to use this machine ; and the object of 
this suit is to obtain a perpetual injunction to prevent a con- 
tinuance of this infraction of complainant's right. 

" Defendant admits most of the facts in the bill set forth, 
but contends that the complainants are not entitled to the ben- 
efits of the act of Congress on this subject, because 

1st. The invention is not original. 

2d. Is not useful. 

3d. That the machine which he uses is materially different 
from their invention, in the application of an improvement, 
the invention of another person. 

" The court will proceed to make a few remarks upon the 
several points, as they have been presented to their view: 
whether the defendant was now at liberty to set up this de- 
fence, whilst the patent-right of complainants remains unre- 
pealed, has not been made a question, and they will therefore 
not consider it. 

" To support the originality of the invention, the complain- 
ants have produced a variety of depositions of witnesses, ex- 
amined under commission, whose examination expressly proves 
the origin, progress, and completion of the machine by Whit- 
ney, one of the co-partners. Persons who were made privy 
to his first discovery, testify to the several experiments which 



40 

he made in their presence, before he ventured to expose his 
invention to the scrutiny of the public eye. But it is not ne- 
cessary to resort to such testimony to maintain this point- 
The jealousy of the artist to maintain that reputation which 
his ingenuity has justly acquired, has urged him to unnecessa- 
ry pains on this subject. There are circumstances in the 
knowledge of all mankind, which prove the originality of this 
invention more satisfactorily to the mind, than the direct tes- 
timony of a host of witnesses. The cotton plant furnished cloth- 
ing to mankind before the age of Herodotus. The green seed 
is a species much more productive than the black, and by na- 
ture adapted to a much greater variety of climate. But by 
reason of the strong adherence of the fibre to the seed, with- 
out the aid of some more powerful machine for separating it, 
than any formerly known among us, the cultivation of it would 
never have been made an object. The machine of which Mr. 
Whitney claims the invention, so facilitates the preparation of 
this species for use, that the cultivation of it has suddenly be- 
come an object of infinitely greater national importance than 
that of the other species ever can be. Is it then to be imag- 
ined that if this machine had been before discovered, the 
use of it would ever have been lost, or could have been con- 
fined to any tract or country left unexplored by commercial 
enterprise ? But it is unnecessary to remark further upon this 
subject. A number of years have elapsed since Mr. Whitney 
took out his patent, and no one has produced or pretended to 
prove the existence of a machine of similar construction or 
use. 

* 2d. With regard to the utility of this discovery, the Court 
would deem it a waste of time to dwell long upon this topic. 
Is there a man who hears us, who has not experienced its util- 
ity ? The whole interior of the Southern States was languish- 
ing, and its inhabitants emigrating for want of some object to 
engage their attention and employ their industry, when the 
invention of this machine at once opened views to them, which 
set the whole country in active motion. From childhood to 
age it has presented to us a lucrative employment. Individ- 
uals who were depressed with poverty and sunk in idleness, 



41 

have suddenly risen to wealth and respectability. Our debts 
have been paid off. Our capitals have increased, and our lands 
trebled themselves in value. We cannot express the weight 
of the obligation which the country owes to this invention. 
The extent of it cannot now be seen. Some faint presenti- 
ment may be formed from the reflection that cotton is rapidly 
supplanting wool, flax, silk, and even furs in manufactures, and 
may one day profitably supply the use of specie in our East 
India trade. Our sister States, also, participate in the benefits 
of this invention ; for, besides affording the raw material for 
their manufacturers, the bulkiness and quantity of the article 
afford a valuable employment for their shipping. 

"3d. The third and last ground taken by defendant, appears 
to be that on which he mostly relies. In the specification, the 
teeth made use of are of strong wire inserted into the cylin- 
der. A Mr. Holmes has cut teeth in plates of iron, and passed 
them over the cylinder. This is certainly a meritorious im- 
provement in the mechanical process of constructing this ma- 
chine. But at last, what does it amount to, except a more con- 
venient mode of making the same thing ? Every characteris- 
tic of Mr. Whitney's machine is preserved. The cylinder, 
the iron tooth, the rotary motion of the tooth, the breast work 
and brush, and all the merit that this discovery can assume, is 
that of a more expeditious mode of attaching the tooth to the 
cylinder. After being attached, in operation and effect they 
are entirely the same. Mr. Whitney may not be at liberty to 
use Mr. Holmes' iron plate, but certainly Mr. Holmes' im- 
provement does not destroy Mr. Whitney's patent-right. Let 
the decree for a perpetual injunction be entered." 

This favorable decision, however, did not put a final stop to 
aggression. At the next session of the United States Court, 
two other actions were brought, and verdicts for damages 
gained of two thousand dollars in one case, and one thousand 
five hundred dollars in the other. The history of these suits, 
as reported for one of the journals of the day, appears to us 
to be a document worth preserving, on account of the light it 
throws on the subject of patent-rights in general, as well as 
in relation to the subject before us. 



42 

LAW CASE. At a Circuit Court of the United States, for the 
district of Georgia, lately holden in this city, [Savannah,] was 
tried the case of Eli Whitney vs. Isaiah Carter, for infringing 
a right vested by patent, " for a new and useful improvement 
in the mode of ginning cotton." The plaintiff supported his 
declaration by proving the patent, model, and specification, 
and proving the use of the machine in question by the defend- 
ant. He also introduced the testimony of several witnesses 
residing in New Haven, to prove the origin and progress of 
his invention. 

The defendant rested his defence on two grounds First : 
That the machine was not originally invented by Whitney. 
Second : That the specification does not contain the whole 
truth, relative to the discovery. 

General Mitchell, of counsel for the defendant, produced a 
model which was intended to represent a machine used in 
Great Britain for cleaning cotton, denominated the " Teazer or 
Devil." A witness was produced, who testified that he had 
seen in England, about seventeen years ago, a machine for 
separating cotton from the seed, which resembled in principle 
the model now exhibited by defendant. 

Another witness testified, that he had seen a machine in 
Ireland, upon the same principle, which was used for separa- 
ting the motes from the cotton before going to the carding 
machine. 

By the machine, of which a model was exhibited, the cotton 
is applied in the first instance to rollers made of iron, revolv- 
ing conversely. By these rollers, the fibres are separated from 
the seeds and protruded within the sweep of certain straight 
pieces of wire, revolving on a cylinder, which tear and loosen 
the cotton as they revolve. It was contended by the defend- 
ant's counsel, that this model conforms 'in principle to Mr* 
Whitney's machine, and that the evidence given in support of 
it, establishes a presumption, that he must have derived the 
plan of his machine from a similar one used in the cotton 
manufactories in Great Britain. 

In support of the second ground of defence, evidence was 
produced to show that Mr. Whitney now uses, and that the 



43 

defendant also uses, teeth formed of circular iron plates, in- 
stead of teeth made of wire. And it was contended that this 
is a departure from the specification, and an improvement on 
the original discovery, which destroys the merit of that dis- 
covery, and the validity of plaintiff's patent. It was also 
insisted that the plaintiff had concealed the best means of pro- 
ducing the effect contemplated. 

Mr. Noel, of counsel for the plaintiff, in opposition to the 
first ground of defence, stated two points First : That if the 
principle be the same, yet the plaintiff's application of that 
principle being new, and for a distinct purpose, has all the 
merit of an original invention. Second : That the principle 
of Mr. Whitney's machine is entirely different from that ex- 
hibited by defendant. 

He defined the term principle, as applied to mechanic arts, 
to mean the elements and rudiments of those arts, or, in other 
words, the first ground and rule for them : that for a mere 
principle, a patent cannot be obtained : that neither the ele- 
ments, nor the manner of combining them, nor even the effect 
produced, can be the subject of a patent, and that it can only 
be obtained for the application of this effect to some new and 
useful purpose. 

To prove this position, several examples were stated of im- 
portant inventions, for which patents had been obtained, which 
had resulted from principles previously in common use, and 
an argument of a celebrated Judge, at Westminster Hall, was 
cited, in which it was asserted, "that two thirds or three 
fourths of all patents granted since the statute passed, are for 
methods of operating and manufacturing, producing no new 
substances, and employing no new machinery ;" and he adds, 
in the significant words of Lord Mansfield, " a patent must be 
for method, detached from all physical existence whatever." 

The second point was principally relied on, to wit : That 
the principle of Mr. Whitney's machine is distinct from that 
produced by defendant, and new in its origin. 

It consists of teeth, or sharp metallic points, of a particular 
form and shape, and its application is to separate cotton from 
the seed ^ whereas the principle of the model exhibited by the 



44 

defendant, and of every other machine before invented, and 
used for the same, or any similar purpose, consists of two 
small rollers made of wood or iron. In illustration of this 
point, the plaintiff's counsel cited the opinion of this court, 
delivered by Judge Johnson, in December term, 1807, in the 
case of Whitney and others vs. Fort, upon a bill for injunction. 

The second objection relied on by the defendant, was " that 
the specification does not contain the whole truth respecting 
the discovery." To this it was answered, that by the testi- 
mony it appears Mr. Whitney, in the original construction of 
his machine, contemplated each mode of making the teeth, and 
doubted which mode was best adapted to the purpose. If the 
alteration which forms the basis of this objection has the merit 
of an improvement, how far does it extend ? An improve- 
ment, not in the principle, nor in the operation of the machine, 
but in making one of its component parts ; merely in forming 
the same thing, to produce the same effect, by means some- 
what different. In the case above cited, Judge Johnson re- 
marked on this point, as follows : 

" A Mr. Holmes has cut teeth in plates of iron, and passed 
them over the cylinder. This is certainly a meritorious im- 
provement in the mechanical process of constructing this ma- 
chine. But at last, what does it amount to, except a more con- 
venient mode of making the same thing ? Every character- 
istic of Mr. Whitney's machine is preserved. The cylinder, 
the iron tooth, rotary motion of the tooth, the breast work and 
brush, and all the merit that this discovery can assume, is that 
of a more expeditious mode of attaching the tooth to the cyl- 
inder." 

The counsel for Whitney admitted that an improvement in 
a particular part of the machine would entitle the inventor to 
a patent for a new and better mode of making that specific 
part, but not for the whole machine, as in the case of Boulton 
vs. Bull, where a patent was granted for an invention to les- 
sen the quantity of fuel in the use of a certain Steam Engine. 
It was decided " that the patent was valid for this improve- 
ment, but that it gave no title to the engine itself." 

It was also stated, that by experiments made on plaintiff's 



45 



model in the face of the court and jury, and by testimony pro- 
duced, it was apparent no improvement had resulted from this 
alteration ; that no beneficial change or amendment in the 
principle had taken place ; nor had the effect been aided or fa- 
cilitated. In the charge of the court to the jury, Judge Ste- 
phens remarked, that the case cited, Whitney and others vs. 
Fort t was decided without any evidence on the part of the de- 
fendant : that from the testimony now produced, his opinion 
is, that the plaintiff must have received his first impressions 
from a machine previously in use, on a similar principle ; and 
that an improvement had been made as to the teeth, by which 
the merit of Mr. Whitney's original invention was diminished. 
For these reasons Judge Stephens had some doubts whether 
the plaintiff ought to recover. 

Judge Johnson remarked to the jury, that after hearing the 
evidence which had been relied on by the defendant, he re- 
mained content with the opinion which he had given in the 
case of Whitney against Fort, and that he was also as fully 
satisfied with the charge he was about to give, as any he had 
delivered. That as to the origin of this invention, the plain- 
tiffs title remained unimpeached by any evidence which has 
been adduced in this cause. He agreed with the plaintiff's 
counsel, that the legal title to a patent consists not in a princi- 
ple merely, but in an application of a principle, whether pre- 
viously in existence or not, to some new and useful purpose. 
And he was also of opinion, that the principle of Mr. Whit- 
ney's machine was entirely new, that it originated with him- 
self, and that it had no resemblance to that of the model ex- 
hibited by the defendant. 

He considered the defendant's second objection equally un- 
supported, and referred to the sixth section of the Patent Law 
of the United States, by which it is required that the conceal- 
ment alledged (in order to defeat the patentee's recovery) must 
appear to have been made for the purpose of deceiving the 
public. That Mr. Whitney, in the original formation of this 
machine, could have no motive for such concealment, and that 
in making use of wire, in preference to the other mode, he ap- 
pears to have acted according to the dictates of his judgment. 

6 



46 



If in this instance he erred, the error related to a point not af- 
fecting the merit of his invention, or the validity of his patent. 
Verdict for plaintiff damages two thousand dollars. 

Same Term, Whitney against Gachet, same cause of action. 
Verdict for plaintiff damages one thousand five hundred dol- 
lars. 

The influence of these decisions, however, availed Mr. 
Whitney very little, for now the term of his patent-right was 
nearly expired. More than sixty suits had been instituted in 
Georgia before a single decision on the merits of his claim was 
obtained, and at the period of this decision, thirteen years of 
his patent had expired. In prosecution of this troublesome 
business, Mr. Whitney had made six different journeys to 
Georgia, several of which were accomplished by land, at a 
time when, compared with the present, the difficulties of such 
journeys were exceedingly great, and exposed him to excess- 
ive fatigues and privations, which at times seriously affected 
his health, and even jeopardized his life. A gentleman* of 
much experience in the profession of law, who was well ac- 
quainted with Mr. Whitney's affairs in the South, and some- 
times acted as his legal adviser, observes, in a letter obligingly 
communicated to the writer of this memoir, that " in all his 
experience in the thorny profession of the law, he has never 
seen such a case of perseverance, under such persecution ; nor 
(he adds) do I believe that I ever knew any other man who 
would have met them with equal coolness and firmness, or who 
would finally have obtained even the partial success which he 
had. He always called on me in New York, on his way 
South, when going to attend his endless trials, and to meet the 
mischievous contrivances of men who seemed inexhaustible in 
their resources of evil. Even now, after thirty years, my 
head aches to recollect his narratives of new trials, fresh dis- 
appointments, and accumulated wrongs." 

We have thought the Cotton Gin sufficiently instructive in 
its history, and important in its consequences, to merit the 
attention we have bestowed upon it. After a more cursory 

* Hon. S. M. Hopkins. 



47 

notice of the other chief enterprise which occupied the life of 
Mr. Whitney, we shall hasten to the conclusion of this memoir. 

In 1798, Mr. Whitney became deeply impressed with the 
uncertainty of all his hopes founded upon the Cotton Gin, not- 
withstanding their high promise, and he began to think seri- 
ously of devoting himself to some business in which superior 
ingenuity, seconded by uncommon industry, qualifications 
which he must have been conscious of possessing in no ordin- 
ary degree, would conduct him by a slow, but sure route, to a 
competent fortune ; and we have always considered it indic- 
ative of a solid judgment and a well balanced mind, that he 
did not, as is frequently the case with men of inventive genius, 
become so poisoned with the hopes of vast and sudden wealth, 
as to be disqualified for making a reasonable provision for 
life, by the sober earnings of frugal industry. 

The enterprise which he selected in accordance with these 
views, was the Manufacture of Arms for the United States. 
He accordingly addressed a letter to the Hon. Oliver Wolcott, 
Secretary of the Treasury, and through his influence obtained 
a contract for ten thousand stand of arms, amounting (as the 
price of each musket was to be thirteen dollars and forty 
cents) to one hundred and thirty four thousand dollars, an 
undertaking of great responsibility, considering the limited 
pecuniary resources of the undertaker. This contract was 
concluded on the 14th of January, 1798, and four thousand 
were to be delivered on or before the last day of September 
of the ensuing year, and the remaining six thousand in one 
year from that time ; so that the whole contract was to be 
fulfilled within a little more than the period of two years ; and 
for the due fulfillment of it, Mr. Whitney entered into bonds to 
the amount of thirty thousand dollars. He must have enga- 
ged in this undertaking resolved " to attempt great things," 
without stopping to weigh all the chances against him ; for as 
yet, the works were all to be erected, the machinery to be 
made, and much of it to be invented ; the raw materials were 
to be collected from different quarters, and the workmen them- 
selves, almost without exception, were yet to learn the trade. 
Nor was it a business with which Mr. Whitney himself was 



48 

particularly conversant. Mechanical invention, a sound judg- 
ment, and persevering industry, were all that he possessed, at 
first, for the accomplishment of a manufacturing enterprise, 
which was at that time probably greater than any man had 
ever undertaken, in the State of Connecticut. 

The low state of the mechanic arts, moreover, increased 
his difficulties. There were in operation near him no kindred 
mechanical establishments, upon which some branches of his 
own business might lean : even his very tools required to be 
to a great extent fabricated by himself. If it is recollected 
also, in what a depressed state the cotton ginning business was 
at this period, it will appear still more evincive of the bold 
spirit of enterprise which Mr. Whitney possessed, as it will be 
seen that he could not avail himself of any resources from 
that quarter, nor could he reasonably hope to derive from the 
same source any future succor. But Mr. Whitney had strong 
friends among the most substantial citizens of New Haven, 
who had been witnesses alike of the fertility of his genius 
and the extent of his industry. Ten of these came forward 
as his security to the bank of New Haven, for a loan of ten 
thousand dollars. Mr. Wolcott, on the part of the United 
States, advanced five thousand more at the time of contract, 
with the promise of a similar sum, as soon as the preparatory 
arrangements for the manufacture of arms was completed. 
No farther advances were to be demanded, until one thousand 
stand of arms were ready for delivery; at which time the addi- 
tional sum of five thousand dollars was to be advanced. Full 
payment was to be made on the delivery of each successive 
thousand, with occasional advances at the discretion of the 
Secretary. 

The expenses incurred in getting the establishment fully into 
operation, must have greatly exceeded -the expectation of the 
parties, for advances of ten and fifteen thousand dollars were 
successively made by the government, above what was orig- 
inally contemplated ; but the confidence of the government 
seems never to have been impaired ; for the Secretary, after 
having examined Mr. Whitney's works in person, declared to 
him, in the presence of witnesses, that the advances which he 



49 

had made had been laid out with great prudence and econ- 
omy, and that the undertaker had done more than he should 
have supposed possible with the sum advanced. 

The site which Mr. Whitney had purchased for his works, 
was at the foot of the celebrated precipice called East Rock, 
within two miles of New Haven. This spot (which is now 
called Whitneyville) is justly admired for the romantic beauty 
of its scenery. A waterfall of moderate extent afforded here 
the necessary power for propelling the machinery. In this 
pleasant retreat Mr. Whitney commenced his operations, with 
the greatest zeal ; but he soon became sensible of the multi- 
plied difficulties which he had to contend with. A winter of 
uncommon severity set in early and suspended his labors, and 
when the spring returned, he found himself so little advanced, 
that he foresaw that he should be utterly unable to deliver the 
four thousand muskets according to contract. In this predica- 
ment, he resolved to throw himself on the indulgence of the en- 
lightened Secretary of the Treasury, to whom he explained at 
length the various causes which had conspired to retard his 
operations. 

" I find, (says he,) that my personal attention and oversight 
are more constantly and essentially necessary to every branch 
of the work, than I apprehended. Mankind, generally, are not 
to be depended on, and the best workmen I can find are inca- 
pable of directing. Indeed, there is no branch of the work that 
can proceed well, scarcely for a single hour, unless I am present." 
At the end of the first year after the contract was made, 
instead of four thousand muskets, only five hundred were de- 
livered, and it was eight years, instead of two, before the 
whole ten thousand were completed. The entire business re- 
lating to the contract was not closed until January, 1809, 
when, (so liberally had the government made advances to the 
contractor,) the final balance due Mr. Whitney was only two 
thousand four hundred and fifty dollars. 

During the ten years Mr. Whitney was occupied in perform- 
ing this engagement, he applied himself to business with the 
most exemplary diligence, rising every morning as soon as it 
was day, and at night, setting every thing in order appertain- 



50 

ing to all parts of the establishment, before he retired to rest. 
His genius impressed itself on every part of the manufactory, 
extending even to the most common tools, all of which re- 
ceived some peculiar modification which improved them in 
accuracy, or efficacy, or beauty. His machinery for making 
the several parts of a musket, was made to operate with the 
greatest possible degree of uniformity and precision. The 
object at which he aimed, and which he fully accomplished, 
was to make the same part of different guns, as the locks, for 
example, as much like each other as the successive impres- 
sions of a copper-plate engraving. It has generally been con- 
ceded that Mr. Whitney greatly improved the art of manu- 
facturing arms, and laid his country under permanent obliga- 
tions, by augmenting her facilities for national defence. So 
rapid has been the improvement in the arts and manufactures 
in this country, that it is difficult to conceive of the low state 
in which they were thirty years ago. To this advancement, 
the genius and industry of Mr. Whitney most essentially con- 
tributed, for while he was clearing off the numerous impedi- 
ments which were thrown in his way, he was at the same time 
performing the office of a pioneer to the succeeding generation. 
In the year 1812, he entered into a new contract with the 
United States, to manufacture for them fifteen thousand stand 
of arms ; and in the meantime he executed a similar engage- 
ment, (we know not how extensive,) for the State of New 
York. Although his resources enabled him now to proceed 
with much greater dispatch, and with far less embarrassment 
than in his first enterprise, yet some misunderstanding arose 
with one of the agents of the government, which made it ne- 
cessary for him to bring his case before the Secretary of 
War. The following testimonials, which he obtained on 
this occasion from Governor Tompkins, and from Governor 
Wolcott, will serve to show in what estimation he was held 
by those who knew him best, and who were most competent 
' to judge of his merits. The letters, dated May, 1814, are both 
addressed to General Armstrong, the existing Secretary of 
War. Governor Tompkins observes as follows : " I have vis- 
ited Mr. Whitney's establishment at New Haven, and have no 



51 

hesitation in saying, that I consider it the most perfect I have 
ever seen ; and I believe it is well understood, that few per- 
sons in this country surpass Mr. Whitney in talents as a me- 
chanic, or in experience as a manufacturer of muskets. Those 
which he has made for us, are generally supposed to exceed, 
in form and quality, all the muskets either of foreign or do- 
mestic fabrication, belonging to the State, and are universally 
preferred and selected by the most competent judges. 

" It is perhaps proper for me to observe further, that all Mr. 
Whitney's contracts with the State of New York have been 
performed with integrity, and to the entire satisfaction of the 
several military commissaries of the State." 

Governor Wolcott's testimony is still more full, as his op- 
portunities for acquaintance with Mr. Whitney had been more 
extensive. We insert the letter entire, as not only indicating 
the high reputation of the individual to whom it relates, but 
as exemplifying the liberality with which the writer is known 
always to have fostered and encouraged genius and merit. 

" New York, May 7, 1814. 

Sir I have the honor to address you on behalf of my 
friend, Eli Whitney, Esq., of New Haven, who is a manufac- 
turer of arms, under a contract with your department. Mr. 
Whitney first engaged in this business under a contract with 
me, as Secretary of the Treasury ; when, according to exist- 
ing laws, all contracts for military supplies were formed under 
my superintendence. I have since been constantly acquainted 
with him, and venture to assure you that the present improved 
state of our manufactures is greatly indebted to his skill and 
exertions ; that though a practical mechanic, he is also a gen- 
tleman of liberal education, a man of science, industry and in- 
tegrity, and that his inventions and labors have been as useful 
to this country as those of any other individual. Moreover, 
that if any further alterations or improvements in the con- 
struction of military machines are proposed, Mr. Whitney is 
one of the few men who can safely and advantageously be 
consulted, respecting the best mode of giving them effect. 

" I make these declarations to you with a perfect convic- 
tion that they express nothing more than Mr. Whitney has a 



52 

right to demand from every man who is acquainted with his 
merits and capable of estimating their value ; and understand- 
ing that he experiences some difficulties in regard to his con- 
tract, I venture respectfully to request that you would so far 
extend to him your favor as to inform yourself particularly of 
the merits of his case and the services he can perform ; in 
which case I am certain he will receive all the patronage and 
protection to which he is entitled. 

" I have the honor to remain, with the highest respect, Sir, 
your obedient servant, (Signed) OLIVER WOLCOTT. 

" The Hon. Secretary Armstrong." 

^Several other persons made contracts with the government 
at about the same time, and attempted the manufacture of 
muskets, following substantially, so far as they understood it, 
the method pursued in England. The result of their efforts 
was a complete failure to manufacture muskets of the quality 
required, at the price agreed to be paid by the government ; 
and in some instances they expended in the execution of their 
contracts, a considerable fortune in addition to the whole 
amount received for their work. 

The low state to which the arts had been depressed in this 
country by the policy of England, under the colonial system, 
and from which they had then scarcely begun to recover, to- 
gether with the high price of labor and other causes, con- 
spired to render it impracticable at that time even for those 
most competent to the undertaking, to manufacture muskets 
here in the English method. And doubtless Mr. Whitney 
would have shared the fate of his enterprising, but unsuccess- 
ful competitors, had he adopted the course which they pur- 
sued ; but his genius struck out for him a course entirely new. 

In maturing his system he had many obstacles to combat, 
and a much longer time was occupied than he had anticipated ; 
but with his characteristic firmness he pursued his object, in 
the face of the obloquy and ridicule of his competitors, the 
evil predictions of his enemies, and the still more discoura- 

* For the following remarks on the manufacture of arms, the writer of this arti- 
cle is indebted to a gentleman who is personally and intimately acquainted with the 
subject 



53 

ging and disheartening misgivings, doubts and apprehensions 
of his friends. His efforts were at length crowned with suc- 
cess, and he had the satisfaction of finding that the business 
which had proved so ruinous to others, was likely to prove not 
altogether unprofitable to himself. 

Our limits do not permit us to give a minute and detailed 
account of this system ; and we shall only glance at two or 
three of its more prominent features, for the purpose of illus- 
trating its general character. 

The several parts of the musket were, under this system, 
carried along through the various processes of manufacture, 
in lots of some hundreds or thousands of each. In their va- 
rious stages of progress, they were made to undergo success- 
ive operations by machinery, which not only vastly abridged 
the labor, but at the same time so fixed and determined their 
form and dimensions, as to make comparatively little skill 
necessary in the manual operations. Such were the construc- 
tion and arrangement of this machinery, that it could be 
worked by persons of little or no experience, and yet it per- 
formed the work with so much precision, that when, in the 
later stages of the process, the several parts of the musket came 
to be put together, they were as readily adapted to each other, 
as if each had been made for its respective fellow. A lot of 
these parts passed through the hands of several different work- 
men successively, (and in some cases several times returned, at 
intervals more or less remote, to the hands of the same work- 
man,) each performing upon them every time some single and 
simple operation, by machinery or by hand, until they were 
completed. Thus Mr. Whitney reduced a complex business, 
embracing many ramifications, almost to a mere succession of 
simple processes, and was thereby enabled to make a division 
of the labor among his workmen, on a principle which was not 
'only more extensive, but also altogether more philosophical 
than that pursued in the English method. In England, the la- 
bor of making a musket was divided by making the different 
workmen the manufacturers of different limbs, while in Mr. 
Whitney's system the work was divided with reference to its 

7 



54 

nature, and several workmen performed different operations 
on the same limb. 

It will be readily seen that under such an arrangement any 
person of ordinary capacity would soon acquire sufficient dex- 
terity to perform a branch of the work. Indeed, so easy did 
Mr. Whitney find it to instruct new and inexperienced work- 
men, that he uniformly preferred to do so, rather than to at- 
tempt to combat the prejudices of those who had learned the 
business under a different system. 

When Mr. Whitney's mode of conducting the business was 
brought into successful operation, and the utility of his ma- 
chinery was fully demonstrated, the clouds of prejudice which 
lowered over his first efforts were soon dissipated, and he had 
the satisfaction of seeing not only his system, but most of his 
machinery, introduced into every other considerable establish- 
ment for the manufacture of arms, both public and private, in 
the United States. 

The labors of Mr. Whitney in the manufacture of arms 
have been often and fully admitted by the officers of the gov- 
ernment, to have been of the greatest value to the public in- 
terest. A former Secretary of War admitted, in a conversa- 
tion with Mr. Whitney, that the government were saving 
twenty five thousand dollars per annum at the two public ar- 
mories alone, by his improvements. This admission, though 
it is believed to be far below the truth, is sufficient to show 
that the subject of this memoir deserved well of his country 
in this department of her service. 

It should be remarked that the utility of Mr. Whitney's la- 
bors during the period of his life which we have now been 
contemplating, was not limited to the particular business in 
which he was engaged. Many of the inventions which he 
made to facilitate the manufacture of muskets, were applica- 
ble to most other manufactures of iron and steel. To many 
of these they were soon extended, and became the nucleus 
around which other inventions clustered ; and at the present 
time some of them may be recognized in almost every consid- 
erable workshop of that description in the United States. 

In the year 1812, Mr. W. made application to Congress for 



55 

the renewal of his patent for the cotton gin. In his memorial 
he presented a history of the struggles he had been forced to 
encounter in defence of his right, observing that he had been 
unable to obtain any decision on the merits of his claim until 
he had been eleven years in the law, and thirteen years of his 
patent term had expired. He sets forth, that his invention 
had been a source of opulence to thousands of citizens of the 
United States ; that as a labor-saving machine it would ena- 
ble one man to perform the work of a thousand men ; and that 
it furnishes to the whole family of mankind, at a very cheap 
rate, the most essential article of their clothing. Hence, he 
humbly conceived himself entitled to a further remuneration 
from his country, and thought he ought to be admitted to a 
more liberal participation with his fellow citizens in the bene- 
fits of his invention. Although so great advantages had been 
already experienced, and the prospect of future benefits was 
so promising, still many of those whose interest had been most 
promoted, and the value of whose property had been most en- 
hanced by this invention, had obstinately persisted in refusing 
to make any compensation to the inventor. The very men 
whose wealth had been acquired by the use of this machine, 
and who had grown rich beyond all former example, had 
combined their exertions to prevent the patentee from deriving 
any emolument from his invention. From that State in which 
he had first made and where he had first introduced his ma- 
chine, and which had derived the most signal benefits from it, 
he had received nothing ; and from no State had he received 
the amount of half a cent per pound on the cotton cleaned 
with his machines in one year. Estimating the value of the 
labor of one man at twenty cents per day, the whole amount 
which had been received by him for his invention, was not 
equal to the value of the labor saved in one hour by his machines 
then in use in the United States. " This invention (he pro- 
ceeds) now gives to the southern section of the Union, over 
and above the profits which would be derived from the culti- 
vation of any other crop, an annual emolument of at least 
three millions of dollars."* The foregoing statement does not 



* This was in 1812 ; the amount of profit is at this time incomparably greater. 



56 

rest on conjecture, it is no visionary speculation, all these 
advantages have been realized ; the planters of the southern 
States have counted the cash, felt the weight of it in their 
pockets, and heard the exhilarating sound of its collision. 
Nor do the advantages stop here ; this immense source of 
wealth is but just beginning to be opened. Cotton is a more 
cleanly and healthful article of cultivation than tobacco and 
indigo, which it has superseded, and does not so much impov- 
erish the soil. This invention has already trebled the value of 
the land through a great extent of territory ; and the degree 
to which the cultivation of cotton may be still augmented, is 
altogether incalculable. This species of cotton has been 
known in all countries where cotton has been raised, from time 
immemorial, but was never known as an article of commerce, 
until since this method of cleaning it was discovered. In 
short, (to quote the language of Judge Johnson,) if we should 
assert that the benefits of this invention exceed one hundred 
millions of dollars, we can prove the assertion by correct cal- 
culation. It is objected that if the patentee succeeds in pro- 
curing the renewal of his patent, he will be too rich. There 
is no probability that the patentee, if the term of his patent 
were extended for twenty years, would ever obtain for his in- 
vention one half as much as many an individual will gain by 
the use of it. Up to the present time, the whole amount of 
what he has acquired from this source, (after deducting his ex- 
penses,) does not exceed one half the sum which a single indi- 
vidual has gained by the use of the machine in one year. It 
is true that considerable sums have been obtained from some 
of the States where the machine is used ; but no small portion 
of these sums has been expended in prosecuting his claim in a 
State where nothing has been obtained, and where his ma- 
chine has been used to the greatest advantage. 

" Your memorialist has not been able to discover any reason 
why he, as well as others, is not entitled to share the benefits 
of his own labors. He who speculates upon the markets, and 
takes advantage of the necessities of others, and by these 
means accumulates property, is called 'a man of enterprise' *a 
man of business* he is complimented for his talents, and is pro- 



57 

tected by the laws. He, however, only gets into his possession 
that which was before in the possession of another ; he adds 
nothing to the public stock ; and can he who has given thousands 
to others, be thought unreasonable if he asks one in return ? 

"It is to be remembered that the pursuit of wealth, by 
means of new inventions, is a very precarious and uncertain 
one ; a lottery where there are many thousand blanks to one 
prize. Of all the various attempts at improvements, there is 
probably not more than one in five hundred for which a patent 
is taken out ; and of all the patents taken out, not one in 
twenty has yielded a net profit to the patentee equal to the 
amount of the patent fees. In cases where a useful and valu- 
able invention is brought into operation, the reward ought to 
be in proportion to the hazard of the pursuit. The patent law 
has now been in operation more than fourteen years. Many 
suits for damages have been instituted against those who have 
infringed the right of patentees ; and it is a fact, that very 
rarely has the patentee ever recovered. If you would hold 
out inducements for men of real talents to engage in these 
pursuits, your rewards must be sure and substantial. Men of 
this description can calculate and will know how to appre- 
ciate the recompense which they are to receive for their labors. 
If the encouragement held out be specious and delusive, the 
discerning will discover the fallacy and will despise it ; the 
weak and visionary only will be decoyed by it, and your pat- 
ent office will be filled with rubbish. The number of those 
who succeed in bringing into operation really useful and im- 
portant improvements, always has been, and always must be, 
very small. It is not probable that this number can ever be 
as great as one in a hundred thousand. It is therefore impos- 
sible that they can ever exert upon the community an undue 
influence. There is, on the contrary, much probability and 
danger that their rights will be trampled on by the many." 

Notwithstanding these cogent arguments, the application 
was rejected by Congress. Some liberal-minded and enlight- 
ened men from the cotton districts, favored the petition ; but 
a majority of the members from that section of the Union 
were warmly opposed to granting it. 



58 

In a correspondence with the late Mr. Robert Fulton, on the 
same subject, Mr. Whitney observes as follows : " The diffi- 
culties with which I have had to contend have originated, prin- 
cipally, in the want of a disposition in mankind to do justice. 
My invention was new and distinct from every other : it stood 
alone. It was not interwoven with any thing before known ; 
and it can seldom happen that an invention or i mprovement 
is so strongly marked, and can be so clearly and specifically 
identified ; and I have always believed, that I should have had 
no difficulty in causing my rights to be respected, if it had 
been less valuable, and been used only by a small portion of 
the community. But the use of this machine being immensely 
profitable to almost every planter in the cotton districts, all 
were interested in trespassing upon the patent-right, and each 
kept the other in countenance. Demagogues made themselves 
popular by misrepresentation and unfounded clamors, both 
against the right and against the law made for its protection. 
Hence there arose associations and combinations to oppose 
both. At one time, but few men in Georgia dared to come 
into court and testify to the most simple facts within their 
knowledge, relative to the use of the machine. In one in- 
stance, I had great difficulty in proving that the machine had 
been used in Georgia, although, at the same moment, there 
were three separate sets of this machinery in motion, within 
fifty yards of the building in which the court sat, and all so 
near that the rattling of the wheels was distinctly heard on 
the steps of the court-house."* 

* In one of his trials, Mr. Whitney adopted the following plan, in order to show 
how nugatory were the methods of evasion practised by his adversaries. They 
were endeavoring to have his claim to the invention set aside, on the ground that 
the teeth in his machine were made of wire, inserted into the cylinder of wood, 
while in the machine of Holmes, the teeth were cut in plates, or iron surrounding 
the cylinder, forming a circular saw. Mr. Whitney, by an ingenious device, (con- 
sisting chiefly of sinking the plate below the surface of the cylinder, and suffering 
the teeth to project,) contrived to give to the saw teeth the appearance of wires, 
while he prepared another cylinder in which the wire teeth were made to look 
like saw teeth. The two cylinders were produced in court, and the witnesses were 
called on to testify which was the invention of Whitney, and which that of Holmes. 
They accordingly swore the saw teeth upon Whitney, and the wire teeth upon 
Holmes ; upon which the Judge declared that it was unnecessary to proceed any 
farther, the principle of both being manifestly the same. 



59 

In the midst of these fruitless efforts to secure to himself 
some portion of the advantages, which so many of his fellow 
citizens were reaping from his ingenuity, his armory pro- 
ceeded with sure but steady pace, which bore him on to afflu- 
ence. For the few following years he occupied himself prin- 
cipally in the concerns of his manufactory, inventing new 
kinds of machinery, and improving and perfecting the old. 

In January, 1817, Mr. Whitney was married to Miss Hen- 
rietta F. Edwards, youngest daughter of the Hon. Pierpont 
Edwards, late Judge of the District Court for the State of 
Connecticut. The fond and quiet scenes of domestic life, 
after which he had so long aspired, but from which he had 
been debarred by the embarrassed or unsettled state of his 
affairs, now spread before him in the fairest light. Four chil- 
dren, a son and three daughters,* added successively fresh 
attractions to the family circle. Happy in his home and easy 
in his fortune, with a measure of respectability among his fel- 
low citizens, and celebrity abroad, which might well satisfy 
an honorable ambition, he seemed to have in prospect, after a 
day of anxiety and toil, an evening unusually bright and serene. 

In this uniform and happy tenor, he passed the five follow- 
ing years, when a formidable maladyf began to make its ap- 
proaches, by a slow but hopeless progress, which at length ter- 
minated his life. 

We are indebted to a near friend and eye witness, for the 
following account of his last illness. In September, 1822, im- 
mediately after his return from Washington, he experienced 
the first attack of his complaint, which immediately threat- 
ened his life. For three weeks the event was very doubtful, 
during which time he occasionally suffered paroxysms of pain, 
of from thirty to forty minutes continuance, severe beyond 
description. These were repeated six or eight times in every 
twenty four hours. For six weeks he was confined to his 

* The youngest of these died in September, 1823, aged one year and nine months. 
Two daughters, and a son hearing his father's name, (the youngest of the three,) 
still survive. 

t An enlargement of the prostate gland. 



60 

room, at the end of which time he was able to walk about 
the house, and to enjoy the society of his friends. Early in 
January, 1823, he had to endure another period of suffering, 
not less alarming or distressing than the former. With such 
alternations of awful suffering and partial repose, he reached 
the 12th of November, 1824, at which period his sufferings be- 
came almost unremitted until the 8th of January, 1825, when 
he expired, retaining his consciousness to the last, closing 
his own eyes, and making an effort to close his mouth. 

It was his particular request that there should be no exam- 
ination of his body with a view of ascertaining the nature of 
his disease, and he desired his funeral to be conducted with as 
little parade as possible. 

The strongest demonstrations of respect and regard were 
manifested by the citizens of New Haven, in committing his 
remains to the earth, and the Rev. President Day pronounced 
over his grave the following eulogy. 

" How frequent and how striking are the monitions to us, 
that this world is not the place of our rest ! It is not often 
the case, that a man has laid his plans for the business and the 
enjoyment of life, with a deeper sagacity, than the friend 
whose remains we have now committed to the dust. He had 
received, as the gift of heaven, a mind of a superior order. 
Early habits of thinking gave to it a character of independ- 
ence and originality. He was accustomed to form his decis- 
ions, not after the model of common opinion, but by his own 
nicely balanced judgment. His mind was enriched with 
the treasures which are furnished by a liberal education. 
He had a rare fertility of invention in the arts ; an exactness 
of execution almost unequalled. By a single exercise of his 
powers, he changed the state of cultivation, and multiplied the 
wealth of a large portion of our country. He set an example 
of system and precision in mechanical operations, which others 
had not thought of even attempting. 

" The high qualities of his mind, instead of unfitting him 
for ordinary duties, were finely tempered with taste and judg- 
ment in the business of life. His manners were formed by 
an extensive intercourse with the best society. He had an 



61 

energy of character, which carried him through difficulties, 
too formidable for ordinary minds. 

" With these advantages, he entered on the career of life. 
His efforts were crowned with success. An ample compe- 
tency was the reward of his industry and skill. He had 
gained the respect of all classes of the community. His opin- 
ions were regarded with peculiar deference, by the man of 
science, as well as the practical artist. His large and liberal 
views, his knowledge of the world, the wide range of his ob- 
servations, his public spirit, and his acts of beneficence, had 
given him a commanding influence in society. The gentle- 
ness and refinement of his manners, and the delicacy of his 
feelings in the social and domestic relations, had endeared 
him to a numerous circle of relatives and friends. 

*' And what were his reflections in review of the whole, in 
connection with the distressing scenes of the last period of 
life ? * All is as the flower of the grass : the wind passeth 
over it, and it is gone/ All on earth is transient ; all in eter- 
nity is substantial and enduring. His language was, ' I am a 
sinner. But God is merciful. The only ground of accept- 
ance before Him, is through the great Mediator.' From this 
mercy, through this Mediator, is derived our solace under this 
heavy bereavement. On this, rest the hopes of the mourners, 
that they shall meet the deceased with joy, at the resurrection 
of the just." 

In his person, Mr. Whitney was considerably above the or- 
dinary size, of a dignified carriage, and of an open, manly, and 
agreeable countenance. His manners were conciliatory, and 
his whole appearance such as to inspire universal respect. 
Among his particular friends, no man was more esteemed. 
Some of the earliest of his intimate associates were also among 
the latest. With one or two of the bosom friends of his youth 
he kept up a correspondence by letter for thirty years, with 
marks of continually increasing regard. His sense of honor 
was high, and his feelings of resentment and indignation occa- 
sionally strong. He could, however, be cool when his oppo- 
nents were heated ; and, though sometimes surprised by pas- 
sion, yet the unparalleled trials of patience which he had sus- 

8 



62 

tained did not render him petulant, nor did his strong sense of 
the injuries he had suffered in relation to the cotton gin impair 
the natural serenity of his temper. 

But the most remarkable trait in the character of Mr. Whit- 
ney, aside from his inventive powers, was his perseverance; 
and this is the more remarkable, because it is so common to 
find men of great powers of mechanical invention deficient in 
this quality. Nothing is more frequent than to see a man of 
the most fertile powers of invention, run from one piece of 
mechanism to another, leaving the former half finished ; or if 
he has completed any thing, it is usual to find him abandon it 
to others, too fickle to pursue the advantages he might reap 
from it, or too sensitive to struggle with the sordid and avari- 
cious, who may seek to rob him of the profits of his invention. 
We cannot better express our views on this subject, than by 
transcribing from a letter now before us the following remarks 
communicated to us by a gentleman* who had intimately 
known Mr. W. from early life. 

" I have reflected often and much upon Mr. Whitney's char- 
acter, and it has been a delightful study to me. I wish I had 
time to bring fully to your view, for your consideration, that 
particular excellence of mind in which he excelled all men 
that I have ever heard of. I do not mean that his power of 
forming mechanical combinations was unlimited, but that he 
had it under such perfect control. I imagine that he never yet 
failed of accomplishing any result of mechanical powers and 
combinations which he sought for ; nor ever sought for one 
for which he had not some occasion, in order to accomplish 
the business in hand. I mean that his invention never failed, 
and never ran wild. It accomplished, I imagine, without ex- 
ception, all that he ever asked of it, and no more. I empha- 
size this last expression, from having in -mind the case of a 
man whose invention appeared to be more fertile even than 
Whitney's ; but he had it under no control. When he had 
imagined and half executed one fine thing, his mind darted off 
to another, and he perfected nothing : Whitney perfected all 
that he attempted ; carried each invention to its utmost limit 

Hon. S. M. Hopkins. 



63 

of usefulness ; and then reposed until he had occasion for 
something else." 

It would be difficult to estimate the full value of Mr. Whit- 
ney's labors, without going into a minuteness of detail incon- 
sistent with our limits. Every cotton garment bears the im- 
press of his genius, and the ships that transported it across the 
waters were the heralds of his fame, and the cities that have 
risen to opulence by the cotton trade, must attribute no small 
share of their prosperity to the inventor of the cotton gin. 
We have before us the declaration of the late Mr. Fulton, that 
Arkwright, Watt and Whitney, (we would add Fulton to the 
number,) were the three men who did most for mankind, of 
any of their cotemporaries ; and, in the sense in which he in- 
tended it, the remark is probably true. 

Fabrics of cotton are now so familiar to us and so univer- 
sally diffused, that we are apt to look upon them rather as ori- 
ginal gifts of nature, than as recent products of human inge- 
nuity. The following statements, however, will show how 
exceedingly limited the cotton trade was previous to the in- 
vention of the cotton gin. 

In 1784, an American vessel arrived at Liverpool, having 
on board, for part of her cargo, eight bags of cotton, which 
were seized by the officers of the custom-house, under the con- 
viction that they could not be the growth of America.* The 
following extracts from old newspapers, will exhibit the extent 
of the cotton trade for the subsequent years. 

Cotton from America arrived at Liverpool. 

1785. January. Diana, from Charleston, 1 bag. 
February. Tenign, from New York, 1 do. 

June. Grange, from Philadelphia, 3 do. 5 bags. 

1786. May. Thomas, from Charleston, 2 do. 
June. Juno, from Charleston, 4 do. 6. 

1787. April. John, from Philadelphia, 6 do. 
June. Wilson, from New York, 9 do. 

Grange, from Philadelphia, 9 do. 
August. Henderson, from Charleston, 40 do. 
Dec. John, from Philadelphia, 44 do. 108. 

1788. January. Mersey, from Charleston, 1 do. 

Grange, from Philadelphia, 5 do. 

* See Southern Review for May, 1831. 



64 

1788. June. John, from Philadelphia, 30 bags. 
July. Harriott, from New York, 62 do. 
Grange, from Philadelphia, 111 do. 
Polly, from Charleston, 73 do. 282. 

The whole domestic exports of the United States in 1825, 
were valued at 66,940,000 dollars, of which value 36,846,000 
was in cotton only. In general, this article is equal to some 
millions more than one half the whole value of our exports. 
The average growth for the three years previous to 1828. was 
estimated at 900,000 bales, which is nearly THREE HUNDRED 
MILLIONS OF POUNDS, of which about one fifth was consumed 
in our own manufactories.* 

We cannot close this article without adding one or two re- 
flections that have occurred to us while perusing the papers of 
Mr. Whitney. President Dwight, in his counsels to his pupils, 
often insisted on the duty of men of high standing in society* 
to lend their influence in bringing forward young men of prom- 
ise ; and no one was ever more ready than that great and 
good man to take by the hand, and lead forward into the world, 
young men of modest merit. This noble disposition he man- 
ifested strongly in his treatment of the subject of this memoir. 
He smiled upon his enterprising undertakings, encouraged him 
by the kindest assurances, and commended him strongly to the 
countenance and support of his friends. When Mr. W. was 
about to negotiate a sale of his patent-right with the State of 
South Carolina, Dr. D. furnished him with a letter to the Hon. 
Charles Cotesworth Pickney, from which we subjoin the fol- 
lowing extract. After adverting to the proposed application 
of Mr. W., Dr. Dwight proceeds : " To you, sir, it will be in 
the stead of many ordinary motives to know that your aid 
will, in this case, be given to a man who has rarely, perhaps 
never, been exceeded in ingenuity or industry; and not often 
in worth of every kind. Every respectable man in this region 
will rejoice to see him liberally rewarded for so useful an ef- 
fort, and for a life of uncommon benefit to the public. 

" Mr. Whitney is now employed in manufacturing muskets 
for the United States. In this business he has probably ex- 

* Niles' Weekly Register. 



65 

ceeded the efforts not only of his countrymen, but of the whole 
civilized world, by a system of machinery of his own inven- 
tion, in which expedition and accuracy are united to a degree 
probably without example. I should not have thought it neces- 
sary to speak of him in so strong terms, had I not believed that 
his own modesty would keep him from discovering his real 
character." 

Governor Wolcott, who cherished similar dispositions to- 
wards young men of merit and ingenuity, gave him similar let- 
ters to Mr. Pickney and Judge Dessaussure. These testimo- 
nials no doubt contributed much to inspire confidence in the 
leading men at the south. Such efforts on the part of eminent 
men in favor of rising worth, enrich the modest youth without 
impoverishing themselves. 

To a number of respectable gentlemen of New Haven, par- 
ticularly the Hon. James Hillhouse, the Hon. Elizur Goodrich, 
the Hon. Simeon Baldwin, and the late Isaac Beers, Esq., Mr. 
W. was under similar obligations for lending him the credit of 
their names, and standing sureties for him in the heavy loans 
which his first great enterprise required, without which aid it 
could never have been carried forward. 

The advantages of a liberal education to a man of mechan- 
ical invention, as well as to the man of business, was very con- 
spicuous in the case of Mr. Whitney. By this means his powers 
of thought, and his materials for combination, were greatly aug- 
mented. The letters exchanged between Messrs. Miller & 
Whitney, both of whom were educated men, are marked by a 
high degree of intelligence, and are written in a style of great 
correctness, and sometimes even of elegance. None but men 
of enlarged and liberal minds could have furnished to their 
counsel the arguments by which they gained their first triumph 
over their legal adversaries. It no doubt also contributed not 
a little to conciliate the respect of those States which pur- 
chased the patent-right, to find in the person of the patentee, 
instead of some illiterate visionary projector, a gentleman of 
elevated mind and cultivated manners, and of a person ele- 
gant and dignified. 

In presenting to the public the foregoing sketch of the life of 



66 

this extraordinary man, the writer has had it constantly in 
view to render the narrative useful to the enterprising mechan- 
ic and the man of business, to whom Whitney may be confi- 
dently proposed as a model. To such, it is believed, the de- 
tails given respecting his various struggles and embarrass- 
ments may afford a useful lesson, a fresh incentive to perse- 
verance, and stronger impressions of the value of a character 
improved by intellectual cultivation, and adorned with all the 
moral virtues. 



REMINISCENCES OF MR. WHITNEY, 

BY 

PROFESSOR SILLIMAN. 

THE preceding memoir has so fully elucidated the character 
of Mr. Whitney, that the following observations may perhaps 
appear superfluous. I have, however, been led to make them, 
both by affection for the memory of a man so highly valued, 
and also because it is often in the power of a friend to give 
some additional touches, even to a faithful picture. 

Mr. Whitney received the degree of A. B. in Yale College, 
at the same commencement (1792) when I became a member 
of that institution. I had only a general knowledge of him 
until 1798, when I was made acquainted with his then pending 
arrangement with the government of the United States, for 
the manufacture of arms, and by request I copied some of the 
papers relating to that contract. In the autumn of 1799, just 
after I had accepted an appointment in the government of 
Yale College, I was much interested by an unexpected appli- 
cation from Mr. Whitney, to visit the principal countries of 
Europe, (all indeed which had cotton-growing colonies, in 
either hemisphere,) for the purpose of obtaining patents for the 
Cotton Gin. Gratifying as the application was to my feelings, 
my recent engagements with the College, and my youth and 
inexperience, concurred with other reasons to make me de- 
cline accepting the overture, which was sufficiently tempting 
to my curiosity and to the desire of foreign travel. 



67 

This affair would not be worth mentioning, except that the 
confidence which it implied naturally led to a familiar inter- 
course of friendship, which for twenty five years was never 
clouded for a moment, and often gave me interesting views of 
Mr. Whitney's character. 

I was frequently led to observe that his ingenuity extended 
to every subject which demanded his attention ; his arrange- 
ments, even of common things, were marked by singular 
good taste and a prevailing principle of order. The effect 
of this mental habit is very obvious in the disposition of 
the buildings and accommodations of his manufactory of 
arms ; although, owing to the infirmities of his later years, 
and to other causes, his arrangements were never finished 
to the full extent of his views. The machinery has great 
neatness and finish, and in its operation evinces a degree 
of precision and efficiency which gratifies every curious and 
intelligent observer. I have many times visited the establish- 
ment with strangers and foreigners, who have gone away de- 
lighted with what they have seen.* Under all of the success- 
ive administrations of the general government, from that of 
the first President Adams, repeated contracts have been ob- 
tained for the supply of arms. 

Mr. Whitney received substantial proofs of the approbation 
of the government in the terms which he obtained. He was 
personally acquainted with all the Presidents of the United 
States from the beginning of the government, and in every 
fluctuation of party he retained their confidence, although his 
own political sentiments were decided and well known. He 
was, from frequent and long visits at the seat of govern- 
ment, familiar with the principal officers, and with the leading 
members of both Houses of Congress ; and thus he was ena- 
bled to sustain the influence which he had acquired, and even 
to extend it, so as to obtain important contracts from several 
of the State governments. 

* The manufactory has advanced in these respects since it has been superintended 
by Mr. Whitney's nephews, the Messrs. Blakes, and to them it is indebted for some 
valuable improvements ; and it is at present ably conducted by the son of the foun- 
der and inheritor of his name. 



68 

The private establishment of Mr. Whitney has proved a 
a model for the more extensive manufactories which are the 
property of the nation. Into them, as the writer of the fore- 
going article has stated, and as I have been informed by Mr- 
Whitney, his principal improvements have been transplanted, 
chiefly by the aid of his workmen, and have now become com- 
mon property. 

A few years before Mr. Whitney's death it became neces- 
sary to renew the mill-dam at the manufactory; it having been 
originally constructed for a flour mill, and being both defective 
in plan and dilapidated by time. Mr. Whitney, then in de- 
clining health, superintended every part of the business in per- 
son, although its execution was protracted almost into the win- 
ter, when massive stones were to be laid, in the midst of cold 
water and ice. It is necessary only to inspect the work, and 
the flume ways, and the walled borders of the river below, 
and the canal which he constructed, to take the water from the 
dam to the forging shop, to be satisfied that both genius and 
taste presided over these useful, although unostentatious con- 
structions. The small river, by and upon which they were 
raised, washes the foot of the celebrated mountain ridge called 
East Rock, as already mentioned in the preceding memoir. 
From its precipices and those of one of its branches, which 
are composed of greenstone trap, Mr. Whitney selected his 
materials with such skill, and arranged them with such judg- 
ment and taste, that the walls, arches, and passages, and some 
of the shops and other buildings constructed of this rock, are 
admired both for their solidity and beauty, and will remain to 
future generations. Some of the works are laid in a cement, 
composed, in part, of a mixture of iron rust and siliceous and 
micaceous sand, derived from the grinding of the gun-barrels 
and other pieces of iron upon the grindstones a cement which 
appears almost as firm as the rocks themselves. There are 
two buildings for fuel : the one for charcoal, and the other for 
mineral coal ; both are finished with great exactness, by se- 
lecting smooth natural faces of the trap rock, which are accu- 
rately laid in mortar and carefully pointed ; the floors are also 
of firm stone, laid with equal exactness. These store-houses 



69 

stand by the side of the mountain and at its foot, and by ex- 
cavating a road in the bank above, the coal carts are driven 
quite up to the gable end of the building, and their loads are 
discharged into them simply by tipping up the cart. This no- 
tice of these humble buildings is given to show Mr. Whitney's 
exactness in every thing. It was a maxim with him, which I 
have often heard him repeat, that there is nothing worth doing 
that is not worth doing well. As far as circumstances permit- 
ted, he always acted up to this maxim. 

The houses for his workmen, at the manufactory, are beau- 
tifully constructed, and arranged upon one plan ; they also are 
of trap rock,* and covered by a white cement, and together 
with the other buildings, the mountain and river scenery, and 
the bridge,f they give this picturesque valley no small degree 
of beauty. It was Mr. Whitney's intention to erect his own 
mansion house in this valley, which would doubtless have then 
received all the embellishment of which it is so susceptible. 
With this view he had constructed an ample barn,J which is 
a model of convenience, and even of taste and beauty, and 
contains many accommodations, not usually found in such es- 
tablishments. It was visited and examined by the late Presi- 
dent Monroe, during his excursion through the Eastern States, 
in 1816. It is perfectly characteristic of Mr. Whitney, that 
his attention was directed even to the mangers for the cattle, 
and to their fastenings. The latter are so contrived, by means 
of a small weight at the end of the halter, that the animal 
could always move his head with facility, but could not draw 
out the rope so as to become entangled in it, nor could he easi- 
ly waste his hay. The fastenings of the doors, as well as all 
the other appendages and accommodations, are equally in- 
genious. 

The great water wheels which move the machinery of the 
manufactory, are constructed entirely of wrought iron, com- 
bining the greatest strength, durability and beauty, with a pro- 

* Since Mr. Whitney's death, other houses have been built of wood, 
t Constructed by that ingenious architect, Mr. Ithiel Town, 
t There is a farm connected with the manufactory. 

9 



70 

jectile power like that of the fly-wheels in steam engines. 
They are elegant objects, especially when in motion. 

Mr. Whitney did not forget the domestic arrangements of 
his own house, which contained many specimens of that inge- 
nuity which he evinced in common things, as well as in those 
that are more important. The several drawers of his bureaus 
were locked by a single movement of one key, of a peculiar 
construction, and an attempt to open any drawer except one 
would prove ineffectual, even with the right key, which, how- 
ever, being applied in the proper place, threw all the bolts at 
one movement. These bureaus are now in the house of Mrs. 
Whitney. 

During the decline of his health, and especially during his 
severest attacks, I was with him almost daily, and saw how 
intensely his powerful and acute mind was directed to his own 
case, of which he made himself perfect master.* It has been 
already stated in the memoir, that his health was subverted, 
and his life ultimately terminated by a very painful local af- 
fection^ brought on, as he informed me. by exposure and fa- 
tigue during the last of his land journeys through North Car- 
olina, on his way to Georgia, to assert his just claims, so long 
and so injuriously frustrated. J He examined with great care 
and coolness the best medical writers on his disease ; he in- 
spected their plates ; conversed freely with his professional 



* Such was the remark made to him by one of the greatest surgeons of this coun- 
try, who, after a painful examination hi one of the great cities, gave him no encour- 
agement to hope for any permanent relief. 

t Not only of the prostate gland, but of the vicinal organs ; this was the fatal 
disease of Mr. Whitney's illustrious friend, the late President Dwight. Thus were 
removed most painfully, from life, two of the greatest and most useful men which 
this country has produced. 

t He made many journeys to Georgia on this painful business, and generally by 
land, hi an open sulkey. Near the close of life, he said in my hearing, that all he 
had received for the invention of the cotton gin, had not more than compensated 
him for the enormous expenses which he had incurred, and for the time which he 
had devoted during many of the best years of his life, in the prosecution of this sub- 
ject. He therefore felt that his just claims on the cotton-growing States, especially 
on those that had made him no returns for this invention, so important to his coun- 
try, were still unsatisfied, and that both justice and honor required that compensation 
should be made. 



71 

advisers, who withheld nothing from him, and he was not sat- 
isfied without such anatomical illustrations as were furnished 
from the museum of an eminent professor of anatomy. He 
critically recorded such facts in his case as interested him the 
most, and in coolness and decision, acted rather as if he him- 
self had been the physician than the patient. 

During this period, embracing at intervals several years, he 
devised and caused to be constructed various instruments, for 
his own personal use, the minute description of which would 
not be appropriate to this place. Nothing that he ever in- 
vented, not even the cotton gin, discovered a more perfect 
comprehension of the difficulties to be surmounted, or evinced 
more efficient ingenuity in the Accomplishment of his object. 
Such was his resolution and perseverance, that from his sick 
chamber he wrote both to London and Paris, for materials im- 
portant to his plans, and he lived to receive the things he re- 
quired, and to apply them in the way that he had intended. 
He was perfectly successful, so far as any mechanical means 
could afford relief or palliation ; but his terrible malady bore 
down his constitution, by repeated, and eventually by inces- 
sant inroads, upon the powers of life, which at last yielded to 
assaults which no human means could avert or sustain. One 
of the important inventions of that distressing period is in 
the possession of the artist who was employed to construct the 
instrument,* but it is to be feared that other contrivances, re- 
markable for their simplicity and efficiency, as well as origin- 
ality, are but imperfectly remembered by the friends and at- 
tendants. I urged Mr. Whitney, and the late Dr. Smith, his 
attending physician, to make sure of these inventions while it 
was possible, but I believe no record was ever made of them, 
and it is but too probable that the instruments are lost. 

I have mentioned these facts connected with Mr. Whitney's 
last illness, merely as instances of his never-sleeping ingenuity 
and mental acuteness, rendered still more active, without be- 
ing enfeebled, by intense suffering. 

I have seen the same traits manifested on occasions far less 

* Mr. Doming. 



72 

important, but to him, at the time, equally novel. In the sum- 
mer of 1808, application was made by myself and others, to 
Mr. Whitney, for tubes of block tin, for the purpose of draw- 
ing through an innocuous metal, the soda water* highly charged 
with carbonic acid gas. Lead and copper tubes were rejected 
on account of their poisonous properties, and there were then 
no facilities in this country for constructing the tubes that were 
desired. Mr. Whitney accomplished the object, with his usual 
precision. The tubes were required to be many feet long, and 
strong enough to resist a heavy pressure. He caused a mould 
to be constructed of cast brass, in two parts, each con- 
taining for about two feet in length, one half of the cylin- 
drical cavity, correspondmg*to the desired tube. When the 
parts of the mould were accurately fitted, by their faces, and 
screwed together, they contained the entire cylindrical cavity 
between them, and to secure the duct through the tube, a pol- 
ished steel rod, of the proper size, and made very slightly ta- 
pering, was fixed in the centre and the melted metal was cast 
around it; the rod, being terminated by a ring, was easily 
knocked out. The separate parts of the tube, thus produced, 
were then joined into one, by having the contiguous ends of 
two of them brought longitudinally into contact, and included 
in another mould, containing an enlarged cavity, into which 
melted tin was poured. The duct was preserved by a steel rod 
passing through it as before, and thus the joint was perfected 
by a knob of metal, which at once united the two tubes into 
one, gave them great additional strength, and furnished a beau- 
tiful ornament. Nothing could be more perfect for the object. 
The moulds are still in existence, and were it necessary, tubes 
could be thus made a mile long. Mr. Whitney did not state 
that this method was original, nor do I certainly know whether 
it was ; but I have never heard of a similar method of casting 
block tin tubes. Mr. Whitney considered it as so valuable, 
that he chose to pay for the moulds, although they were expen- 
sive, and he retained them with reference to future use for 
himself. 

* Then just beginning to be known in this country. 



73 

The operations of Mr. Whitney's mind were not so remark- 
able for rapidity as for precision. This arose, not from the 
want of mental activity and ardor of feeling, but from habit- 
ual caution, and from his having made it his rule to be satisfied 
with nothing short of perfection. Hence, he delayed to men- 
tion a projected invention or improvement until he was entire- 
ly satisfied with his own views. He did not disclose them until, 
in his own opinion, he had hit upon the best conception and the 
best means of execution, and when these were attained, and not 
before, he brought his project forward, or, more frequently, put 
it into successful operation before he divulged his plan. Hence, 
he rarely found it necessary to retrace his steps. In early life 
he so effectually disciplined his mind, that he could not only 
confine it to the contemplation of one subject, but he could sus- 
pend his train of thought and the execution of his inventions, 
and resume them at distant intervals without confusion or loss. 
He was very patient of interruption, and would cheerfully leave 
his own engagements and suspend his mechanical arrange- 
ments, his repasts, or his business, to attend to the numerous 
applications which were constantly made to him, both by those 
who had, and those who had not, any proper claims to his 
time and services. 

No man, as stated in the memoir, knew better how to con- 
trol the excursions of an inventive mind. I have heard him 
speak feelingly of the ruin often brought by ingenious men upon 
themselves, by allowing their minds to wander from invention 
to invention ; devising many things and completing nothing ; 
and he considered it equally his own duty and interest to ad- 
here inflexibly to those undertakings which he could carry into 
successful operation, and to deny himself the luxury of a per- 
petual mental creation. 

With all his contemplative ingenuity and habitual attention 
to mechanical details, Mr. Whitney did not allow his mind to 
be narrowed down to a limited horizon. His views of men and 
things were on the most enlarged scale. The interests of 
mankind, and especially of his native country, as connected 
with government, liberty, order, science, arts, literature, mor- 



74 

als, and religion, were familiar to his mind, and he delighted in 
conversing with men of a similar character. 

His amiable and generous dispositions also prompted him 
strongly to social intercourse. His countenance and person 
were so prepossessing as to excite an active interest, especially 
whenever he spoke ; his gentlemanly manners, marked by a 
calm, but dignified modesty, were still those of a man not un- 
conscious of his own mental powers ; he was therefore self- 
possessed, while a winning affability and an agreeable voice 
made his conversation as attractive as it was instructive. He 
abounded in information and in original thoughts ; he was al- 
ways welcome in the best society, both at home and when he 
traveled ; the first men of the country, and from almost every 
State in the Union, called on him, and much of his time was 
necessarily passed in society. Before he had a family, his 
carriage was often observed standing, till a late hour in the 
evening, at the doors of some of his friends, and he seemed 
reluctantly to withdraw to his manufactory, which was two 
miles from the town. Mr. Whitney was constant and warm 
in his friendships, and his efficient pecuniary aid, (after he 
came to be possessed of the means,) was often afforded not 
only to his friends, but to persons who had sometimes no 
claims except those that addressed themselves to his kindness 
and generosity. Those who relied upon these traits were 
rarely disappointed, but he did not consider himself as being 
'always requited, either with substantial justice or with grati- 
tude ; a case which is, however, not altogether singular in the 
world. Many thousands of dollars, amounting to a consider- 
able fortune, were lost to Mr. Whitney, through his generosity. 

It is perhaps worthy of being mentioned, that Mr. Whit- 
ney's amiable dispositions and power of pleasing were mani- 
fested in the pleasure which he took in caressing children, and 
in the ease with which he won their attachment. In my own 
family, as a visiting friend, he always allured the children, at 
once, around him, and neither he nor they were soon tired of 
the little gambols and pastimes started for their amusement. 
Such happy dispositions eminently fitted him for the high do- 
mestic happiness which he found in his own family, during the 



75 

few years that he was permitted to enjoy their society. After 
he became convinced that he could not survive his disease, he 
manifested a wise prospective forecast for their welfare ; and it 
is characteristic of his peculiar turn of mind, that the ample 
house which, had he lived, he had intended to erect, he 
ordered to be built after his death, for his lady and their chil- 
dren. His fortitude and sense of decorum never forsook him 
during his long and distressing decline. He almost always 
saw his friends, and some of them he would never suffer to be 
denied ; even when in intense pain, he was cheerful, social, 
courteous, and, to the last, he maintained the observance of 
order and proper attention to his person. He desired that the 
writer of these notes should be in the house at the closing scene ; 
and although this was prevented by circumstances, he ex- 
pressed to him, near the close of life, sentiments such as we 
should wish to hear from a dying friend. As is common in 
cases where there has been severe suffering, his countenance,, 
after death, assumed its natural expression, even in a greater 
degree than for several weeks before. 

His funeral was attended by a large concourse of his fellow 
citizens, who assembled in one of the churches, to which the 
body was conveyed, and where an appropriate religious ser- 
vice was performed. 

His tomb is after the model of that of Scipio at Rome, a 
miniature of which, of the same stone of which it was orig- 
inally made, was sent out cut from Italy by Mr. William C. 
Woodbridge, and has been adopted in the case of two other 
eminent men, the late Dr. Nathan Smith, and Mr. Ashmun, the 
founder of the colony of Liberia. It is simple, beautiful, and 
grand, and promises to endure for centuries.* An accurate 
drawing of it, by Mr. R. Bakewell, Jr., is annexed. 

* The foundations of the monument are laid at the bottom of the grave, by the 
sides of the coffin, and depressed below it ; an arch of stone is thrown over the cof- 
fin, and the structure then rises, solid as an ancient temple. The material of the 
monument is the fine grained sandstone, of Chatham, Conn. The several layers of 
stone are composed each of one piece only. 

The following observations of a distinguished scholar and statesman, elicited in 
consequence of a recent visit to the cemetery of New Haven, evince the estimation 



76 

On Mr. Whitney's tomb is the following inscription : 

ELI WHITNEY, 

The inventor of the Cotton Gin. 
Of useful Science and Arts, the efficient Patron and Improver. 

In the social relations of life, a Model of excellence. 

While private affection weeps at his tomb, his country honors his memory. 

Born Dec. 8, 1765. Died Jan. 8, 1825. 

in which Mr. Whitney's name is held, by one who is fully capable of appreciating 
his merits. After alluding to the monument of Gen. Humphreys, who introduced the 
fine wooled sheep into this country, the stranger remarks : " But Whitney's monu- 
ment perpetuates the name of a still greater public benefactor. His simple name 
would have been epitaph enough, with the addition perhaps of ' the inventor of the 
cotton gin.' How few of the inscriptions in Westminster Abbey could be compared 
with that ! Who is there that, like him, has given bis country a machine the pro- 
duct of his own skill which has furnished a large part of its population, ' from child- 
hood to age, with a lucrative employment ; by which their debts have been paid off ; 
their capitals increased ; their lands trebled in valve. 9 * It may be said indeed that 
this belongs to the physical and material nature of man, and ought not to be com- 
pared with what has been done by the intellectual benefactors of mankind the 
Miltons, the Shakspeares, and the Newtons. But is it quite certain that any thing 
short of the highest intellectual vigor the brightest genius is sufficient to invent 
one of these extraordinary machines? Place a common mind before an oration of 
Cicero and a steam engine, and it will despair of rivaling the latter as much as the 
former ; and we can by no means be persuaded, that the peculiar aptitude for com- 
bining and applying the simple powers of mechanics, so as to produce these marvel- 
ous operations, does not imply a vivacity of the imagination, not inferior to that of 
the poet and the orator. And then, as to the effect on society, the machine, it is 
true, operates, in the first instance, on mere physical elements, to produce an accu- 
mulation and distribution of property. But do not all the arts of civilization follow 
hi the train? and has not he who has trebled the value of land, created capital, 
rescued the population from the necessity of emigrating, and covered a waste with 
plenty has not he done a service to the country of the highest moral and intellect- 
ual character ? Prosperity is the parent of civilization, and all its refinements ; and 
every family of prosperous citizens added to the community, is an addition of so 
many thinking, inventing, moral and immortal natures." New England Magazine, 
Nov. 1831. 

* The words of Mr. Justice Johnson of South Carolina, in the opinion in the case of Whitney 
vertua Carter. 



APPENDIX. 



The Effect of the Invention of the Cotton-Gin on the Production of Cotton, 

THE influence of mechanical inventions on the improvement of the human race, 
and the wealth of nations, is a circumstance which has peculiarly impressed the 
minds of practical men and of philosophic observers alike, since the beginning of 
the nineteenth century. Changes in the condition of society and in the intercourse 
of nations, far more momentous and lasting than the revolutions previously produced 
by political causes, have, within the last fifty years, been effected by the action of 
individual minds, in the development of neglected physical facts, and in the applica- 
tion of material agencies to the use and benefit of man. As new wants have been 
felt, and the needed uses of yet undiscovered powers have been made known in the 
progress of society, art and science have met each occasion ; and the demand for 
new combinations of matter and motion has been continually answered by widely- 
various, unwearied invention. 

The application of steam to machinery, to navigation and to land carriage, the in- 
vention of the spinning-frame, and of the cotton-gin, are imposing instances of the 
operation of such causes, so insignificant in their inception, so immensely important 
in their results, to the convenience and happiness of mankind. The agency of Watt, 
Fulton, Stevens, Telford, Arkwright, and Whitney, in the production of the present 
wealth of the world, and in the development of the before-unappreciated resources 
of the rapidly improving commonwealths and empires of progressive Christendom, 
has been greater than that of all other human causes. What may have been ac- 
complished by government, by policy and by science, for the promotion of the gen- 
eral good of civilized nations, is little in comparison with the production of these indi- 
vidual minds acting wholly without the sphere of political agencies, and has been 
wholly subordinate and secondary to it. 

These views of the relative influence and importance of merely personal, private 
agency, and of national or governmental movements, would have startled the world 
in the last century, and would have received a contemptuous condemnation ; but to 
the present generation, they have been made familiar by reiteration, almost to 
triteness. 

The increase of the production of a cheap material for woven fabrics, adapted in 
some degree to the use of the human race in every climate and region, is a matter 
of more importance to commerce and to the interests of civilization, than may ap- 
pear to a superficial observer. The supply of this primary necessity of man, (hardly 
less essential than that of food,) with an article capable of being substituted, to a 
great extent, for every other material hitherto converted into cloth, has been, during 
the present half-century, by far the most important element in the commercial rela- 
tions of the United States and Europe, has been the source of the largest amount 
of acquired wealth, and has given employment to the greatest aggregate of profit- 
able labor. There is no parallel in history to the changes which the cotton trade has 
made in the direction of commerce, in the employment of mechanical industry, in 
the dress, habits, conveniences, and health of mankind, and in the intercourse and 
mutual dependence of nations. And when it is remembered, that the material was, 
by the invention of the COTTON-GIN, furnished to the manufacturer with the cheap- 



78 

ness, abundance and dispatch which insured these great results, it becomes manifest 
that the importance of this mechanism has not been overrated. 

The memoir, which this statement accompanies, furnishes some facts relating to 
the consequences of jVIr. Whitney's invention to the growth of cotton ; but the in- 
crease of the production, manufacture, and exportation of that great American sta- 
ple during the years which have intervened, has created a necessity for an extended 
view of the statistics of the subject. The limits of the present sketch permit only 
an outline or abstract of the facts. It is a topic which has largely employed the 
faculties of commercial writers and statesmen in the United States and in Great 
Britain, the results of whose labors may be obtained from the public documents of 
the American government, and from the various volumes of Hunt's " Merchants' 
Magazine," a periodical of great merit and value for commercial statistics of this 
and similar character. 

Numerous statistical tables have been published in works of this description, ex- 
hibiting the annual cultivation of cotton in the different States of the Union and 
throughout the world, and also showing the amount and value of the exportations of 
cotton from the United States to the various countries of Europe. The influence of 
the cotton-gin on the increase and relative amount of American production and ex- 
portation, is thus exhibited by a statement of the growth here and elsewhere, in cer- 
tain years, at fixed periods. 

Tables, exhibiting at great length all the particulars of production and export, for 
each year, from 1791 to the present time, are given in several articles in Hunt's 
" Merchants' Magazine," especially in a History of the American Cotton Trade, by 
JAMES H. LANMAN, hi Vol. IV, page 201, of that work. A document prepared by 
the Treasury Department in 1836, in obedience to a resolution passed in Congress, 
presents also very ample and valuable tabular details of the progress of the cotton 
trade and culture for more than forty years. The Merchants' Magazine contains 
also a very valuable series of articles on this subject, (by Professor M'Cay, of the 
University of Georgia,) presenting minute statements of the annual production and 
exportation of cotton during recent years. (Merchants' Magazine, Vol. IX, p. 516 ; 
Vol. XI, p. 517; Vol. XIII, p. 507.) From these, most of the particulars here 
given are derived ; and to these and the American Almanac for 1837, and to the 
Annual Reports on Commerce and Navigation prepared by the Treasury Depart- 
ment, the inquiring reader is referred for the complete statistics of the agriculture, 
commerce and manufacture of cotton. 

The grand results, however, may be viewed effectively from a few points of time, 
selecting the statistics of certain dates, taken at random. In the year 1791, the 
whole cotton crop of the United States was but 2,000,000 of pounds. In 1845, 
(fifty -two years after the invention of the cotton-gin,) it was more than 1,000,000,000 
of pounds, (2,395,000 bales, averaging above 430 pounds.) In 1791, the cotton 
annually produced in the whole world was estimated at 490,000,000 Ibs., of which 
the United States, consequently, produced only 2 Is"' ^ n 1845, the total supply 
furnished in the markets of the civilized world, was 1,169,600,000 Ibs., (2,720,000 
bales,} of which the United States produced, therefore, more than SEVEN-EIGHTHS. 

In 1791, the whole amount of cotton exported from the United States was 189,316 
pounds, this being the first definite statement of the kind on record. Previous to 
that year, the growth and sale of cotton had been so trifling in amount, as to be ac- 
counted unworthy of any notice in the statistics of American commerce, or even in 



79 

those of Southern agriculture. Although it is known that even in 1770 there 
were shipped to Liverpool, THREE bales of cotton from New York. FOUR bales from 
Virginia and Maryland, and THREE from North Carolina and though, in 1784, (the 
year after the Treaty which closed the Revolutionary War and secured the recog- 
nition of American Independence by Great Britain,) a vessel that carried EIGHT bales 
of cotton from the United States to Liverpool was seized in that port, on the ground 
that so large a quantity of COTTON in a single cargo could not be the produce of the 
United States, yet there was no decisive improvement in the production or exporta- 
tion of this article down to the era of Whitney's invention. And in 1792, (the year 
preceding the invention,) the quantity exported was even less than in 1791, amount- 
ing only to 138,328 Ibs. a decrease of 50,988 Ibs. in one year. There was no in- 
dication, from 1770 to 1792, of any tendency to a large increase of the production 
of cotton ; and- however great the adaptation of the soil and climate of the South to 
its culture, and however strong the encouragements afforded by the extended de- 
mand and high price in Britain and on the European continent, no one, at that 
time, seems to have expected that this was ever to be one of the great staples and 
exports of the United States. 

In 1793, the year of the invention, the whole cotton crop of the United States 
was 5,000,000 Ibs., and the total exportation 487,600 Ibs. In 1794, when the cot- 
ton-gin was first extensively introduced into Georgia and South Carolina, (then the 
principal region of that production,) the whole crop increased to 8,000,000 Ibs., and 
the exportation to 1,601,760 Ibs. In 1800, when the machine had been thrown 
open to the people, without limitation, from regard to the legal rights of the patentee, 
the total production of cotton in the United States, during the year, amounted to 
35,000,000 Ibs., of which 17,789,803 Ibs. were exported. In 1805, the whole produc- 
tion was 70,000,000 Ibs., and the amount of upland cotton exported, 29,602,428 Ibs. 
(value, $9,445,000.) In 1810, the crop was increased to 85,000,000 Ibs., and the 
exportation of upland cotton to 84,657,384 Ibs. In 18,15, the whole of the United 
States crop was 100,000,000 Ibs., and the exportation of upland cotton 74,548,796 
Ibs. In 1820, the whole United States crop was 160,000,000 Ibs. the exportation 
of upland 116,291,137 Ibs., valued at $22,308,667. In 1825, crop 255,000,000 Ibs. 
exportation of upland, 166,784,629 Ibs. In 1830, crop 350,000,000, exportation, 
290,311,937. In 1835, crop 475,000,000 exportation, 379,000,000. In 1840, 
crop 880,000,000 exportation valued at $63,870,307. In 1845, the United States 
cotton crop was 1,029,850,000 pounds, and the exportation of cotton 862,580,000 
pounds the domestic consumption being 167,270,000 pounds. 

The recent annexation of the immense cotton-lands of Texas, the abolition of the 
import duty on American cotton in Great Britain, and the vast and rapid increase of 
the manufacture of cotton-fabrics in all parts of the United States, are evidences of 
the certainty of a further increase in the production of cotton in this country. 
Enormous as has been the progress of this staple, from 1791 to 1845, it is destined 
to a yet greater extension in amount and value. 

The exclusion of East India cotton from its previous monopoly of the markets of 
the civilized world, from the beginning of the present century, was mainly due to 
the introduction of the cotton-gin in the Southern States of the American Union, 
which substituted the rapid operations of machinery for the tedious and costly labor 
of human hands in the preparation of the crop for the. use of the manufacturer. 
The recent attempts of the British Government and the East India Company to re- 



80 

store the successful production of cotton in Hindostan, have consisted largely in tho 
introduction of American improvements, especially of "TuE AMERICAN COTTON- 
GIN," into those provinces which are adapted to the culture. The greater cheap- 
ness of labor, and even the superior quality of the product (in the province of 
Dharwar) were found to avail nothing, without the advantages of American ma- 
chinery. 

The pecuniary advantage of this invention to the United States is by no means 
fully presented by an exhibition of the value of the exports of cotton, (amounting to 
more than $1,400,000,000 m the last forty-three years,) nor by the immense pro- 
portion of the means which it has furnished this country to meet the enormous debts 
continually incurred for imports from Britain and the European continent COTTON 
having for many years constituted ^, j, or JQ of the value of the exports of the 
Union. But it was the introduction of the cotton-gin which first gave a high value 
and permanent market to the Public Lands in the southwest. The rapid settle- 
ment and improvement of almost the entire States of Alabama, Mississippi, Lou- 
isiana, Florida, and Texas, is mainly due to the enlarged production of cotton con- 
sequent upon the invention of Whitney. The States of Georgia and Tennessee 
have also been largely benefited by the same means, in the disposal of their domain, 
a vast portion of which must have remained unoccupied and valueless but for the 
immense increase of facilities for the preparation of cotton for the market. In the 
three States of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, the sales of the public lands of 
the General Government amounted to 18,099,505 acres, during the eleven years 
ending on the thirtieth of June, 1844, yielding to the National Treasury more than 
$30,000,000. The sales of upland cotton lands by the United States land-offices, 
have amounted to many tens of millions of acres ; and none have been sold at a 
lower rate than $1.25 an acre a large proportion at a higher rate. 

It is to be remarked, finally,- that the cotton-gins now in use throughout the whole 
South are truly the origina^invention of Whitney, that no improvement or suc- 
cessful variation of the essential parts has yet been effected. The actual character- 
istics of the machine, (the cylinder and brush,) the sole real instruments by which 
the seed is removed and the cotton cleaned, REMAIN, in cotton-gins of even the most 
recent manufacture, PRECISELY AS WHITNEY LEFT THEM. The principle has not 
been altered since the first cotton-gin was put in motion by the inventor, though 
great improvements have been made in the application and direction of the moving 
forces, in the employment of steam-power, in the running-gear, and other incidentals. 
Every one of the various cotton-gins in use, under the names of different makers, 
contains the essentials of Whitney's patent, without material change or addition. 
The brush and the cylinder remain, like Fulton's padd'e- wheel, unchanged in form and 
necessity, however vast the improvements in the machinery that causes the motion. 

A more imposing result of mechanical ingenuity directed to the benefit of a whole 
nation, and, through it, of mankind, has not been recorded in the history of the hu- 
man mind. Certainly there is no patriotic American that will not rejoice to accord to 
this eminently useful, though basely-wronged inventor, the judgment so well express- 
ed by Mr. Lanman, (Merchant's Magazine, Vol. IV, pp. 208, 209,) that " Whitney 
earned the credit of giving a spring to the agriculture of the South, which has been 
continued, unimpaired, to this day, a credit that will endure while the cotton- 
plant whitens the plantations of the South with its snowy harvests, or the machinery 
of the cotton-factory clatters upon the waterfall!" 



"V